When censorship can be a good thing.

When I started blogging nearly three years ago, I thought that the platform would provide me with a certain level of freedom. Finally, I would be able to express my thoughts, my opinions, my views on the world uncensored.
No editors.
No worries.
But that was not so.
Too many triggers for my passions are connected with indivuals, individuals I care about, people I don’t want to hurt. Others are triggered by anger that, if expressed without proper evidence and purpose, could create some excellent lawsuit material for the offending parties.
Finally, there are bridges I cannot afford to burn.
Yet I see it happen every day.
Bloggers bash without consideration of consequence. They reveal private information that belongs to others without consent. They hurt other people and they hurt themselves. They forget, perhaps, that once words are distributed on the Internet, they are impossible to take back.
Twenty, thirty, forty years from now, they will remain.
One blogger in particular affected me deeply.
She wrote on an online forum about complaints from her children. They had pleaded with her to stop brutally ridiculing them in her blog for the sake of page views. She refused to stop, arguing that as long as her children lived under her roof, she had the right to reveal whatever she chose. Her blog wouldn’t be funny without them, she wrote.
I’m betting that she won’t be blogging the exploits of her grandchildren.
She won’t be allowed to know them.
Another woman wrote honestly and humerously about the end of a long-term relationship. Her name and location were part of her profile. The blog was popular, so popular that it inspired her to write a book about ending relationships. Her book is selling well.
But she had to end the blog when strangers tracked down her ex-boyfriend and threatened him. The world is full of sick people, sadly, and many of them are addicted to the Internet.
So, I vent here and I write about raising our twins on my other blog, but I am always careful. My older children have declined to be included in any blogs and I respect that. My twins will decide what happens to their blog when they are old enough to understand. Until then, I write about them in a way that might help other parents of identical twins.
I am not free to write without care because I do care.
I am own editor.
And when I think about topics for my posts, I follow two rules: I must write as if everyone in the world will read it and I must ponder how it will play out several years into the future. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing as long as we don’t abuse it.

I used to be a better mom

I used to be a better mom.
My first two kids had my constant attention except when I was cleaning.
I got online when they were asleep.
I worked on my novel when I had a sitter.
They had it good.
Then came light-weight laptops and wireless networking.
Now, I keep my laptop on the kitchen counter most of the day.
When it’s in the basement at my desk, I sneak down and check my email hoping my 3-year-old twins won’t notice.
I let them watch too much TV. I don’t read to them quite as much as I should. I let the older kids stay up an extra half an hour while I finish one last blog entry, a couple of emails and take a quick peek at my Web stats.
I have excuses.
_ I recently started working as a moderator for a popular online forum.
(I have to become more familiar with its culture–the posters, the topics and the general tone of the community. Right?)
_ My agent might email with an offer.
(Okay, so he’d probably call first. Enough already. These are excuses, remember?)
_ Some horrible ailment might befall a friend I haven’t seen in 20 years and the only way I will know is if I check Facebook. (How will it look if I miss the wall post and fail to send a “get well” card?)
Yes, I have excuses.
But today, it started to get to me.
I wondered whether I was cheating the twins.
(I rarely touch my computer from the time the older kids come home from school until just before they go to bed.)
I looked at them.
They were feeding each other pretzels.
Five books were scattered across the living room floor, books I had read to them earlier. Books they had pulled out again and flipped through, pretending to read them aloud.
In the midst of the books was a length of railroad track I had set up for them this morning. Thomas was towing Annie and Clarabel. Diesel pulled a Troublesome Truck. They had played with those off and on for hours.
The television was off .
And they weren’t bothered.
No, Matthew and Jonathan were happy.
And I was getting some work done on my laptop.
I had even cleaned the kitchen.
So maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe it’s not such a bad thing, this portable, virtual world in my kitchen.
I am not glued to it.
I still get down on the floor with the boys several times a day, flipping them, lifting them and letting them climb on my back and shoulders. I still scoop them up and cuddle them individually for several minutes at a time. We do puzzles together. We count our fingers and toes. We color. We sing the alphabet song.
We dance.
We try to get out of the house for at least a few hours each day.
Perhaps the difference between the mom I was before wireless Internet and the mom I am now is that I am connected, connected with other adults and connected with my work. I am not going crazy for adult interaction or intellectual stimulation while I’m home with my children.
This time around, I have my laptop.
I have my email.
I have Microsoft Word.
I have it good.
But when I power down and take a look around, I realize this:
So do they.

Know the source

Originally posted Feb. 5, 2009

I have learned a great deal from the folks on the forums of Absolutewrite.com, but a recent thread bothered me. Someone had written an intriguing query letter and had posted it in the “Share Your Work” forum, hoping for advice on improvements.
The responses came quickly: other writers confidently tearing it to shreds.
After the first few replies, some voices of reason began to emerge, published authors or those with agent contracts who suggested that the writer simply polish a few sentences and go for it. It really was good. It just needed a little tweak here and there.
I can only hope that the original poster read beyond those first few replies.
The lesson: know your sources.
The Internet is flooded with forums, blogs and private groups for writers. Absolute Write is one of the good ones. If ever I actually sell a book, I will make a donation. Those folks saved me from doing such crazy things as paying fees to agents, sending silly query letters or signing with publishers that are nothing more than self-publishing companies in disguise.
But every forum has its less-than-credible members and it is important to take advice from their members with a healthy dose of cynicism. Helpful writers will be in tune with your needs and your goals. They will ask questions. They will give answers with confidence, but not with arrogant confidence. They will make you feel good about their replies even if they’ve just suggested that you are going down entirely the wrong path.
I belong to another online writing group that is private. I have found wonderful advice and support there from women who face similar obstacles with their writing, but one fellow writer stood out among the rest. Her advice was often loudly written and left me shaking my head. She always punctuated her harsh words with her experience as a published author.
So I bought her novel (It was out of print, so I had to buy it from a used book dealer.). Her book was awful. The publisher went out of business long ago. When I Googled them both, I found that they had worked together previously. The publisher was likely a friend.
Worse yet, the copy I purchased had been autographed, a gift to a person who had helped her with her research.
Now, when I see her responses, I skip them.
I know the source.