My mother-in-law has a favorite saying,”If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.” How well I remember some lengthy silences around their dinner table when I was a young bride and expressing some of my more out-there ideas about life. But even though they remained silent, their facial expressions still came across loud and clear—I was treading on sacred ground.
After several years passed, I came to understand my new family’s way of life. I’d been raised in a different town and they were country folk—living on a dairy farm with values much different than my own.
Eventually, I learned to keep my more brash opinions to myself. Eventually, I came to understand why they felt the way they did and you know; it was okay. No longer did I need to be right or think that everyone had to agree with me.
I still express my feelings and ideas but much more often on paper than in person because I can still read facial expressions. They aren’t always what I’m hoping for.
We have an immense freedom as writers. We can write about almost anything we want and not see our readers’ immediate reactions. That gives us a safety net—unless the reader chooses to track us down and tell us how they feel.
We also have an immense obligation as writers. I want my readers to think about what I’ve written and feel comfortable responding. I don’t want them to sit across the table from me with an expression that asks, “Why would you even say that?”
Sometimes I am still that twenty-one-year old new bride with some strong 70’s opinions. Sometimes I let some words and thoughts slip that I should have thought more about before I did. But what’s different now is I care about that look that comes back to me.