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Should Authors Just Shut Up and Write?

14

September 2, 2012 by Renee

Okay, back to books and fiction and the publishing industry. You know, the stuff that frustrates me, but in a good way. Today author Christopher Moore mentioned on Facebook that he’d posted political comments that seemed to anger folks. When he announced said discontent on Twitter, he says he realized that some readers expected him to voice no opinion. “Just give us another book,” one Twitter follower told him.

Does anyone else find this insulting? Moore is a rather outspoken author. He likes to sprinkle f-bombs liberally in his writing and he’s got more than a pinch of snark in his tweets and Facebook posts. But he’s fun about it. Most of his tweets and Facebook commentary is humorous and sarcastic, but it’s also intelligent. What’s not to love about that? Even if you don’t like his books, I think that his honesty and realism is refreshing. I started reading his books because of his attitude. (A friend retweeted his tweets and I became an instant fan. Then I bought his books.)

After finding out that his opinion wasn’t welcomed by some readers, Moore had this to say:

“Do people actually think that you can become an artist by not having a point of view? Do you actually think that being ambivalent is the way you get good at comedy? A lot of writers don’t talk about their political side, because they think it will hurt their readership, and I get that. I’m sorry it comes to that, but I get it. You have to make a living first, but trust me, even your most beloved young adult author of the most friendly stories has a point of view or they wouldn’t be able to do what they do. (Also, if we were the kind of people who responded well to being told what to do, we wouldn’t be doing this either.)”

We’ve discussed before how authors shouldn’t pretend to be something we aren’t. This is an interesting topic, because there are many readers and writer that disagree. Many believe an opinion is dangerous, and “taking sides” on an issue is going to hurt sales. But why would you want readers that don’t accept your views on something? Surely you don’t think they’ll enjoy your work if they can’t at least relate to your opinions. We should never try to please everyone because eventually that act gets too exhausting to maintain. Yes, politics is a sensitive issue, especially for Americans, but should someone refrain from discussing issues that are important to them simply because they have a public image to “maintain?”

Can you imagine never voicing your thoughts or feelings to your readers because you’re afraid someone won’t buy your books? A by-product of writing (if you’re doing the research you should be doing) is that authors have a vast store of knowledge, which Moore pointed out. How can you know about so many subjects and not discuss them? How can you not form an opinion?

I don’t see anything wrong with a public figure, be they author, actor or whatever, voicing an opinion. In fact, I respect them more for it, even if I don’t particularly like their views. At least they have views. At least they think about something beyond image and sales.

Of course, my opinions and my humor have gotten me into hot water before, so perhaps I’m wrong. What do you think? Are you willing to remain silent about your opinions, never pick sides and such, to ensure your books sell?

If you want to check Moore out, he’s on Twitter of course, but he’ll be tweeting his political opinions under the Twitter name, @NOX10US.
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14 thoughts on “Should Authors Just Shut Up and Write?

  1. I generally have no interest in any celebrity's opinion. The only time I'd be (mildly) interested in an author's political opinion is if he wrote politically bent fiction. Otherwise, who cares? Everyone has an opinion. That doesn't mean it's interesting or must be shared. With the rise of social media there's the misconception that just because we have a venue that gives us the right to use it. One man's wisdom is another man's noise.I liked it better in the old days. There were less fights and more friends.I have plenty of opinions–very strong opinions. I just choose not to share them. Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  2. Renee Miller says:

    I'm not saying we need to voice every opinion, but I don't see anything wrong with discussing politics and such. You're right, there were less fights and more friends, but I wonder at the sincerity of friendships that are based on not offending each other. I guess it depends on the situation and the opinion.

  3. Vero says:

    I'm with Maria on this one. I believe that everyone has an opinion, and has a right to voice that opinion, but doing so doesn't always make sense. And just voicing an opinion because I can and have a right to, and to no other purpose than to vent a momentary frustration or hear myself groan into the forest, makes little sense to me.About politics. All I ever hear online is American politics, yet there are thousands of writers from all over the world, some from countries that have far bigger problems when it comes to politics than the States. But somehow it's always the Americans who feel the greatest need to vent their angers. And frankly, even if I love an author to death, if I hear one more thing about Romney or Obama, I'm turning a deaf ear for enough time I might miss a book promo. Is it worth it?

  4. Renee Miller says:

    So you would pass on an author for talking politics? Interesting.And yes, there are authors with far bigger problems, but people talk about what they know, and what they know is their own issues, angers, passions, etc. So, should we not discuss something just because someone else, someone who has it harder/better/worse than us, isn't discussing theirs?I don't think I expressed myself very well earlier. I don't think you should voice an opinion simply because you can. I think you should voice it if you feel you MUST, regardless of whether or not it's the popular one.

  5. Vero says:

    I wouldn't pass on an author because he's talking about politics. But I would pay less attention to his tweets / FB posts in general, if the majority of them is about a subject I don't care about. In my attempt to sift through the avalanche of info streaming down my newsfeeds, I might thus overlook his mentioning of a new book he has coming out.I didn't say we shouldn't discuss problems we care about just because others don't have the same preferences. All I said was that it's a trait of the American culture and mentality to immediately jump on the bandwagon and give their opinion on whatever topic is hot at the time. It's just that the hot topics are usually of national interest, not international. Which is perfectly within reason. But as someone who does not live in the States, I find it hard to care more about the political problems in the US than those in my home country, or my immediate personal problems. It has nothing to do with whether an opinion or another is "popular", or whose problems are bigger in general. I follow other authors because I want to hear about their experiences with writing, not their political opinions. If I'm interested in competent political discussions, I follow political blogs and newsreels. And that does not mean I disrespect writers who talk politics. Just that when they do, they lose my interest, because it's not politics I'm interested in.

  6. I'm with Renee. I think everyone has a right to an opinion and to voice said opinion if they want to. That's one of the great things about the internet. SOMEONE will want to listen to your opinion. Not everyone, but someone. So share. Personally, I like an author that doesn't something more than just push out books like a machine. Authors are people, too. And we have ideas. Thoughts that go outside the realm of fiction. Veronica – all you hear about is American politics because our election is coming up in November and people are up in arms over social issues. It may not be important to you, but it's important to others.It's important to me that I make my voice heard to those few people who listen to me about the issue of gay/human rights. Sure, some people don't give a shit, but I do, so I talk about it. Chris Moore is one of those people who puts an entertaining spin on his political commentary. His tweets really are funny and, to me, lightens the tension associated with the election. But the point is, you don't have to listen and they (we) don't have to shut up either.

  7. Vero says:

    Shutting up is never an option. It's a respectable thing, like both you and Renee are saying, to take a stand for something you believe in. But just as is it the writer's right to talk about things that interest him, it's also a reader's right to say he's more interested in the writing than the writer's opinion on politics. Do you automatically judge that to be a gesture of telling that author to shut up and produce? I don't. But maybe I'm in the wrong here and completely missing the point.

  8. In general, maybe.But I'm referring specifically to the tweep who said that to Chris. "shut up and write."

  9. Renee Miller says:

    You're right, Vero. We can't judge that to be a gesture of telling authors to "shut up and produce." I'm not interested in American politics either. I'm not interested in Canadian politics, to be honest. But Moore's political comments made me laugh about a subject I'm also sick of hearing about. As Kat pointed out, he lightened the mood. I'm asking, should we not do that (by 'that' I mean make light of issues or discuss unpopular opinions) because it will offend readers or lose sales?And as Kat just pointed out, in Moore's case, that was what he was told. Readers that feel that way should do as you do and ignore the chatter.

  10. Vero says:

    Sarcasm is one humanity's best inventions, in my book. And I for one know I couldn't live with myself if I pretended to be anything I'm not for the sake of fame or money.

  11. Rita Webb says:

    I'm opinionated person, but I sometimes keep my opinions to myself. Why? Because sometimes I don't like the sound of my own voice when I get on a soapbox.But overall, I see no reason why an author should not share their opinions online. Better to be real and share what's on your heart, than to post empty comments that mean nothing and inspire nobody.

  12. Renee Miller says:

    "Better to be real and share what's on your heart, than to post empty comments that mean nothing and inspire nobody."This, Rita, is the point I wanted to make, but seem to have missed, and what I think Maria and Vero are saying (although I might be wrong)but perhaps in a different way. The important part of what you just said being that you should post what's in your heart, and what's real, and not write about empty, meaningless shit that serves no purpose. That goes both ways though, right? Don't voice an opinion simply to be heard, or because everyone else is doing it. You should voice an opinion that's important to you for a reason.

  13. Mike Keyton says:

    A thin dividing line separates the strident and immature, and those who have something meaningful to say. There is also quite a thin dividing line between artists who have political opinions and 'politician's who were once artists. A few comedians fall into that camp. The internet is seductive. It allows every man and his dog to vent. It placates the 'I want to be heard' ego. It also encourages verbal diarrhoea.Of course people should be free to choose. Why not? But in my experience a writer's political/social attitudes can be gleaned from their work. I'd question their motives in advertising those views via social media – other than the need to have an occasional rant. Like this : )

  14. Renee Miller says:

    Ah, good points as usual, Mike. I think I agree with that. Moore (from what I've read in his posts) does not typically rant about political issues, not on a regular basis, but he's been cracking a lot of jokes regarding the political frenzy in the States lately. I can see how a reader would feel…annoyed. I never question when authors, actors or other public types voice political opinions. I mostly ignore it, which is maybe why I see nothing wrong with it. It doesn't bother me one way or the other. However, I can see where it might be annoying to someone else.

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Renee

Renee

I like to write stuff. Sometimes it's funny. I've published some novels and short fiction. I also battle an addiction to cake and potato chips, and I sometimes have inappropriate fantasies involving Kevin Spacey.

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