Three pm on the third coast. Verdant clad tree limbs swing rhythmic in the western wind as I am surrounded by an eclectic mix of Bowie, Genesis alums and the Rippingtons, punctuated by strident cardinal calls and the furtive tapping of fluffy butted diminutive woodpeckers. I’m barefoot at the picnic table, basking in the floral abandon of a Michigan spring holiday. I revel in the heady freedom. I’m grown. I write what I want.
Suddenly, with an adrenaline surge akin to the horror of staring down an uninvited yellowjacket perching on your pop can, my internal editor hackles up. Or perhaps it is my “good Christians don’t” conservative machinations. Whatever it is, I’m temporarily thwarted. My fingers stop their staccato dance as my mind grasps for something appropriate, relevant. Politically correct…dammit.
Truth is, while I suppose I technically could write whatever I please about whatever I choose in whatever mix of vulgarity, insensitivity and indecency I desire because I have free will, I also know that even the words I spit on a page are subject to whatever consequence such freedom inherently carries. You see, as a writer, you are who you are on paper as much as you are who you are in person. Your words wait for you in your future to bless you, or curse you. Even your fiction may become the only reality of your legacy whereby you are remembered. Watch what you say. Even more so, watch what you write.
I can certainly flick that flying striped jerk off my soda can before I’m stung (coordination notwithstanding) but what of the myriad hives of stinging words I’ve fashioned with the spit and mud of my ire and ignorance up to this point? The swarming rants and comments I’ve flung across cyberspace in the past decade of virtual intimacy may form the slanderous epitaph tapped in stone to mark my last rest. Stupid isn’t always fatal but it may be immortal.
If you are a writer, you know words are power. Be careful therefore how you wield them. They may bless you. They may bury you. They will always carry a specific consequence that will affect you. Since I know I can no longer write what I want, I think I’ll take a walk.