To those who choose to read what I say here in this journal, I wanted to get a few things straight. I don’t think I’m about to come up with anything particularly profound; in fact, I suspect that what I’m about to say is a given for most of you. For at least one reader, however, it wasn’t. This is why I’m making this post.
First, when I give opinions about the writing craft, they are my opinions. Advice to writers comes by the bucketful from those who have been published. Bookstore shelves are filled with “How to” books. If there was only one way to write, there would be only one “how to” book, everyone would have it, everyone would write that way, and everything would be the same. My opinions on writing — for the most part — work for me. They may well work for you. Or, they may not. Take them with a grain of salt. If you can make use of anything here and it helps you in your writing, I am pleased to have made a small contribution. If you try something here and it ends up not working for you, I can’t take the blame for anything other than having helped you explore different writing processes. Ultimately, no one other than yourself will make you a good writer.
Second, when I cite a source in this journal, if I do not say that I disagree with the portion I am citing, particularly if I use that source in making a point, then I would expect everyone to assume that I do agree with it. This journal isn’t about book reviews. I do not feel that it is required that I produce some complicated analysis of an entire work just to cite a piece of it to make a point. If I read something that I disagree with enough that I want to write about why I disagree with it, I’ll do so. If I read something that I agree with enough that I want to write about why I think it’s correct, then I’ll do so. Otherwise, look at the evidence I provide for my arguments and draw your own conclusions.
Third, I do not set out to offend any readers. Likewise, I do try to think about what I say so that I will avoid offending readers. If I use a particular word or if I phrase something in such a way that an individual finds it offensive, I appreciate it when that person lets me know. I would expect my readers to tell me when they think I may have crossed the line, and to explain what I might have said that wouldn’t have crossed the line in their view.
But I also believe that there is an equal responsibility on the shoulders of those readers who do so: when I explain my position, and I assure them that my intent wasn’t to offend, I think they should be willing to accept that my intent was innocent, just as I was willing to accept that they were offended. I am perfectly willing to apologize when I’m wrong. But I can’t accept responsibility for someone else’s misinterpretations of what I write when my motives are honorable and when I have done my best to make sure I didn’t set out to offend. Different people will sometimes read the same thing and react in different ways. If I write something that is interpreted in a way other than the way I meant, and I explain in detail how I meant it, I would hope that my readers would accept my explanation and not question my motives further.
If the reader is so offended as to decide that he cannot continue to read what I write, then there is nothing I can do about that. I always regret losing readers. But I can only do so much to assure one of my intentions.
As I said, much of this would seem to me to be common sense. But just in case it isn’t, I wanted to at least have written the words. I hope anyone who wonders about my motives and methods might take some comfort from this clarification.