The Freedom to Write

“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?

Leave a comment

59 Comments

  1. excellent writing about writing-brilliant

    Reply
  2. What a great little history lesson that reminds us of our freedoms given with a little pep talk to inspire us to remember that the words we suffer to write are a freedom we are blessed to be able to compose. Thank you for the reminder. And I’ll be sending you my picture ASAP.

    Reply
  3. mgedwards

     /  July 4, 2012

    Excellent piece, August. Happy Independence Day from the frontiers of freedom! I love the idea of a photo collaboration. May it be a smashing success.

    Reply
  4. We do have a tendency to take our freedoms for granted sometimes, don’t we? Thanks so much for the reminder to Be Independent!!

    Reply
  5. Excellent reminder not to take our freedoms and lives for granted. So many great people have fought for us to have the opportunities we do today. Great job, August!

    Reply
  6. Kourtney Heintz

     /  July 4, 2012

    Terrific post August. You always put things in lightning striking clarity. 🙂 I do tell people I am a writer and I usually add I’m looking for representation so I don’t have to squirm under the “what have you published” question. I work through all my big issues by writing. I don’t always know it at the time but I look back and can see what I got closure on there. 🙂 So glad I have the freedom to write.

    Reply
    • That means a lot, Kourtney. Thanks!
      Gotta love those proverbial question responses to “I’m a writer.” And facing our issues is a huge perk of writing. I’m happy you’re a writer, too. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Happy 4th, August. I do say I’m a writer to people, although I must admit I am still shocked when my ‘work’ life and my writing life intersect. hope your day is filled with fireworks and all the things associated with the 4th

    Reply
  8. Today’s the Fourth of July? I think I’ll go write something. 🙂

    Great post.

    Reply
  9. Reblogged this on LE ARTISTE BOOTS and commented:
    Very well put. Thanks.

    Reply
  10. Perfect post for the 4th. We are fortunate to still live in a country where we are free to write and even think what we believe in (despite the extremists who would probably love to take that away). There are still many places in the world where writers must hide themselves and their ideas. Today I will write with those writers in mind.

    Reply
  11. Catherine Johnson

     /  July 4, 2012

    That’s a fun idea August. You have a great point with this post.

    Reply
  12. gingercalem

     /  July 4, 2012

    Great post, August, as always!! I think most people know that I’m a writer. I feel grateful to have the freedom to follow my dreams.

    Reply
  13. Raani York

     /  July 4, 2012

    This is another great post about writing August.
    Happy 4th July from overseas!!

    Reply
  14. Happy Fourth, August, and thanks for the reminder to appreciate writing–and the fact we get to do it.

    Reply
  15. journalpulp

     /  July 4, 2012

    “How are you celebrating the 4th or other summer holidays?”

    Savoring the storm, savoring the shade.
    I’m lapping honey from the sharpened blade.

    Reply
  16. Great post! Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am. 🙂

    Reply
  17. Beautifully written, August. We celebrated our Canada Day on the first. Wishing you a happy 4th of July!

    Reply
  18. Running from Hell with El

     /  July 4, 2012

    This post gave me chills, August! The freedom to right is an honor! Amen!!

    As far as the writer badge, I wear it with pride. It’s listed as my occupation and my FB Page/Blog is listed as my employer.

    Thanks for what you wrote today, and I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

    Reply
  19. Nice reminder. We are lucky to have so many freedoms, and we tend to take them all for granted. We should celebrate them daily in the little things we do, reminding ourselves and the people around us how blessed we are. Thank you, August.

    Reply
  20. I never thought about freedom of expression or even self-determination in the same sense that I do when I’m writing on my blog. This post rings very true.

    Reply
  21. Just this past week, for the first time, the words “I write mysteries” spilled off my tongue without hesitation when someone asked me what i do. It felt quite natural, actually. I am proud to be a writer and proud of this great country where we are free to pursue our dreams! Great post, August. Hope everyone had a great 4th!

    Reply
  22. Stacy S. Jensen

     /  July 4, 2012

    I wear the badge proudly. For the Fourth … family time and spent time at a neighborhood gathering. A fun day. Now, back to reality.

    Reply
  23. AMEN to that August!!!
    I haven’t been wearing my badge proudly enough but I will! Thanks for the gentle nudge and the reminder of all we have to be ever so grateful for!

    Reply
  24. Coleen Patrick

     /  July 5, 2012

    I love this post August! I am proud to be a writer, but I have to admit I feel a little shy when asked what I do. Still once prodded about it, I usually have no problem talking! 🙂
    I sent myself an email to remind me about taking an I am a Writer photo–sounds cool!!

    Reply
    • I love that you self-emailed! Definitely a sign of a bright writer. 😉 Can’t wait to put your photo to use. Thanks for the support!

      Reply
  25. A brilliant piece for such a day, August. Communication has always been a privilege the powerful wanted to control. In some ways the media companies, China’s internet policy, and many other dictators, are the modern equivalent of the fines for teaching slaves. The internet is gradually chipping away at that control, and being able to communicate with other human beings is perhaps the greatest of our freedoms because it can unite the ideas of the masses.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  26. I often get discouraged thinking that writing might not have as much power to enact social change as I’d like it. This was a very inspiring post to remind me that maybe it does!

    Reply
  27. Happy belated fourth, August! Great reminder that writing is a gift we all have access to and, perhaps, a responsibility to perpetuate.

    Reply
  28. I wear the badge proudly! I am a writer and I love sharing my work…

    http://www.trueleefition.wordpress.com

    flash and longer…

    Reply
  29. Great encouragement, August. You are a giver, my friend!

    Reply
  30. I’m doing catch-up today. Excellent reminders of just how grateful we all should be. Thanks!

    Reply
  31. I love how you put things into perspective August! Even though I do wear my writer’s badge proudly I sometimes feel guilty to do so because I haven’t been published yet in any form.
    Excellent post and I know its late but I hope you had an enjoyful 4th of July, you certainly are a great asset to your country, August! 🙂

    Reply
  32. Missed this one! Oops!
    True that we as writers should value our freedom and not take it for granted.
    I wear my writer’s badge proudly, but it took a while to start saying it out loud. Then there was some backlash with some of my so-called friends. I think some feel threatened by it since it is a new profession. If often wonder if I had always been a writer if it would be different. Too bad for them. I love this new profession and there is no turning back now!
    I will have to put on my thinking cap and come up with a mug shot….

    Reply
  33. You may be the ultimate “writer’s writer’, August! Thank you1

    Reply
  34. I wear the badge loud and proud — ly.

    🙂

    I’ll try to send you a photo!

    Reply
  35. We are lucky to be in a country where we have freedom of expression. There are parts of world where even literates don’t have that liberty.

    Reply
  36. I don’t know why, but I’ve never thought about many of the things you wrote about in this post. Thank you for publishing this.

    Reply
  37. Thank you, August, for stopping by my website and liking me! You have a brilliant and informative website yourself! God bless you!

    Reply
  38. What a great post for Independence Day, August! I am writing my dissertation (and a novel) about Christine de Pizan, the first woman to make her living writing in France. She was born in 1364, and fought prejudice against women her entire life. When I feel dragged down by life, I think of her and realize how easy I have it.

    I missed your call for pictures, but I do have a sign up in my day job cubicle that proclaims me as a writer.

    Have a wonderful rest of the week.

    Reply
  39. A Great posts. Writing is Freedom. Thanks so much for sharing and I appreciate you stopping by My Journal of Praise and liking a Post. God Bless you in all that you do.

    Reply
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