As an artist – an artiste, thank you – I get all worried about creating stuff that people might find offensive. When I was nine or ten, for example, I wanted to write a poem that used the word “damn.” So I asked my mom – and she said I shouldn’t, that I should use “hot dog!” or something.
If I recall correctly, “hot dog” wouldn’t have worked – “hot dog it to heck!” just doesn’t sound right.
I also don’t think I ever actually finished that poem/thing/whatever it was.
Anyway, that still affects my art today. I’m pretty careful about what I write and publish (and create, for that matter.)
Basically, my rule is: I publish absolutely nothing about which I would be ashamed to tell my grandmother. That use of “damn” up there – oh phooey, now I’ve used it twice – is the first example of my choosing to actually publish something that uses, um, “harsh language.”
I don’t mind that form of self-censorship; it saves me from a lot of embarrassing circumstances. I don’t accidentally publish stuff that I’m not proud to tell my wife and children about because of it, you know? (At least, not that I know of… and I try to adhere to this, really.)
There’s another form of self-censorship, though, that bothers me.
I try to deal with emotions and thoughts and stuff – and sometimes those can be misinterpreted. As a songwriter, I tend to write about things that bother me, so a lot of my vocal music is angry – screaming at religious dolts, or growling at politicians (the “supplicants of power”), or occasionally pointing out self-destructive behavior (“strange rituals” or “unless you try to set me free…”).
I’m conflicted about this. On one hand, I still worry that someone might interpret some of my more vague writings as being aimed at them, but I can deal with that. A lot of my songs are aimed at people, they’re things I wanted to say and had to say.
But some of them are… a little too pointed. I have a song, for example, that addresses a really painful situation, and it’s a direct response to something… and while the lyrics are a little stilted (no singer, I) the song is good. I mean, really good. Stirringly so. (I captured the emotion, I thought, and how it applies to me.)
But I can’t make it public. The situation is something I still want to rescue some day, and it’s delicate enough that if my thoughts were exposed like this, it… wouldn’t be delicate any more. It’d be destroyed. It’s tenuous enough as it is, and I don’t want to make it worse.
This kind of self-editing bothers me a lot. I don’t like to hide; I don’t mind elephants in the room, but there’s no way I’m not pointing them out. It’s not fair to me, to have any other way, and it removes my ability to deal honestly with people.
Politesse is my enemy, too.
But this is a problem I don’t know how to solve; I could say “onward!” and put out a song that would prevent any hope for healing, and see myself as having that extra bit of artistic integrity, or I could hold back and keep hope alive.
Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive…
Author’s note: repost.