Friday, 26 April 2019

A Word about #OwnVoices by Shirley-Anne McMillan

Over the last few weeks I have had several thoughts on this matter. Some of them were thoughts about my own writing and some of them were angry thoughts about other people’s writing. I don’t want to detail any of those thoughts here. There has been so much said, much more than has been listened to, and in some cases much more than should have been said. So I don’t want to add to all of that- all of us have to decide who to listen to, how best to listen, what to say or not-say, what to apply or not-apply to our own work. Sometimes people do the wrong thing. I am trying to be careful, not because I’m afraid of Twitter mobs, but because writing is really important to me and people are really important to me, and if I’m a witness to any lengthy discussion about writing involving people, which it always does, then it means I have conscious decisions to make and it’s my chance to do my best by writing and by people. With that, and an acknowledgement of my perpetual failings, in mind, here is what I’ve learned lately on this subject.

1. Twitter is not a good place to have this discussion
2. But, if you want, it’s possible to observe Twitter trying to have that discussion, take what you find there, and then have a less heated discussion with a smaller group
3. The smaller group should include people you potentially disagree with, but the key thing is that the smaller group should be made up of people you trust who also trust you. It might not be a perfect discussion. That has to be OK sometimes because some discussions are very big and take a long time.
4. It’s OK to just take what you’re learning and keep it to yourself sometimes. Take time to think and listen. Allow yourself to imagine and to change your mind.
5. When you’re listening, find the experts. Writers love to write. It’s how we process things. It can make social media a dangerous place though. We can come across as authoritative about things we don’t really know much about. If it’s an important issue my policy now is to find the experts and listen to them, even if a writer I like is really articulate and saying things that I think I agree with.

There’s probably more, but I want to add that all social media isn’t awful, and I have had some really brilliant and helpful discussions lately about #OwnVoices online. There’s no reason why that discussion can’t be interesting and useful for everyone who actually cares about the subject. I really hope it will make my work better in the long run. Good luck. Let me know how you handle this kind of thing too.


Anne Booth said...

Your point about writers processing things by writing about them is so true. I write in my prayer journal, and often change my mind about things through writing/praying about them - but the good thing about writing in my journal is that nobody needs to know what I think or feel about everything - it is private. I agree that the problem with twitter, when we are sharing our words, is that we are immediately publishing something and we might have needed a bit more reflection, or a kind editor to say 'do you really mean that?', or a humbling recognition in ourselves that we may have got it wrong. Twitter can be such kind and supportive place, but it can be scary too, and I definitely tend to avoid publishing on subjects I am still learning about. In some ways it is a shame, because people should be able to be seen to learn from others and change their minds about things without being called hypocrites , and we should be able to admit we are not sure or don't fully understand about things.

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Shirley-Anne Mcmillan said...

Agree completely, Anne. In some ways I think that internet arguments have been good for me, and I have changed y mind because of them sometimes. But I lack the mental and emotional energy for it these these days and I do think it's wise to consider that not every thought needs to be shared on the journey to greater enlightenment! Having said that, if you can find people to ask questions of then it can be a great experience. The thing abut being able to change our minds is so important. Thanks for your comment.