“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
I’m all about breaking rules when it serves a worthy purpose. As we gear up to celebrate the United States’ birthday, I’ve been thinking about the many rules that have been bent and broken so that we writers can freely pursue our passions, and how lucky we are to be writers period.
Consider the following:
- During the 18th century, many women authors took on male pen names in order to be taken seriously. I can only imagine how many women never pursued writing at all, out of similar fears, or because the words female and author weren’t considered a harmonious pair.
- In the age of slavery in the U.S., slaves who could read and write were esteemed members of black society, yet anyone caught teaching slaves to literary skills were subject to fines, whippings and imprisonment. Some of the bravest slaves wrote their way toward intellectual freedom, meanwhile risking—sometimes losing—their lives.
- One in five adults worldwide are illiterate, according to the United Nations Literacy Decade. And only about 61 percent of adults in low-income countries can and and write. This isn’t right or fair or easy to wrap our heads around.
We can’t likely change the whole world quickly or on our own, but we can make the most of our freedom by pursuing our passions with gusto. If we buy into negative notions, such as “writing isn’t a real job,” we take away from the efforts of millions along the way—men, women and children who read and wrote anyway—when it wasn’t considered right, good, safe or easy. We owe it to them, our loved ones and ourselves to read and write our butts off.
Writing IS freedom. For many artists, writing is a necessary pathway toward emotional fulfillment, a sense of community and acceptance, sanity and even physical health. As we watch fireworks and gather with loved ones this holiday week, I hope you’ll also take time to celebrate the freedom we have to put words on the page. Through our thoughts and stories, we can entertain, inspire, educate and change the world.
Toward that end, I’m putting a little something for writers together, and would LOVE your contributions. To participate, send a photo of you holding a sign that reads “I AM A WRITER!” or conveys the idea in other ways. Chosen photos will be featured in a permanent collaboration on my site. Yep, that’s all the detail you’re gonna get, for now. Email the photos to me (august at augustmclaughlin dot com) by July 21st.
Wishing you a healthy, safe and joy-filled 4th of July!
How are you celebrating the 4th or other summer holidays? Do you wear your “I’m a writer” badge proudly, or do you still need a little nudging? Anything you’re particularly grateful for this summer?