Well, for those of you who hoped I had it coming for my rant against Santa Claus last week: take pleasure in knowing I have been sufficiently chastised… by my 10-year-old niece, my 12-year-old nephew, and my 46-year-old sister.
As Linda Grosskopf, my mentor in the ag news industry, would say, 50 lashes with a wet noodle for me.
It turns out my niece and nephew are faithful readers of my blog. They and their mother (my big sister) don’t see a lot of wisdom in turning their backs on the possibility that Mr. C. is for real. And though all three of them are accustomed to taking everything I say with a grain of salt, they might believe that I pushed the envelope too far when the best thing I could say about Santa was that I think he’s cute.
The incident has necessarily reminded me of a writer’s responsibility to know and respect her readership. Though it is my job as a writer to entertain, to responsibly inform, to encourage the reader to consider new viewpoints and think outside the box… it is also my job to take care I don’t drive my readers to the depths of despair in doing so. With the gift of writing I possess comes the fragile, ethics-driven awareness that I have the power to sway opinion. A few well-placed words have the ability to manipulate the reader’s emotions. It is a responsibility that weighs upon me, even though my jokes and jabs might suggest otherwise. As my reader, you have entrusted me with part of your day and with the mood that will wash over you when you read the last sentence. And I thank you for that trust, and I will do my best not to use it to, well, break your heart.
If I feel called to tell you that Santa’s not real, know I’m trying to do it gently.
That said, another tidbit from Linda Grosskopf comes to mind. In preparing me to editorialize, she said: “If you’re making half the people mad half the time, you’re doing your job.” Fact is, you (the average reader of my work) and I won’t always agree. A newspaper editor has to have a heart of steel because it is her job to stir emotions. She must be careful not to consistently take the same side. She is a well-know figure, both liked and disliked.
I don’t have a heart of steel, and I couldn’t take the heat of seeing my words in newsprint, because I’ll admit it, I don’t like it when I displease people. So I gave my editor’s seat back to Linda.
Yet something in me continually drives me to write close to the edge. And so I have retreated to this blog hidden in the sea of nonsense which is the internet, where part of me thinks I can write whatever I want and never have to pay. Until my dear nephew and niece call me back to reality. They may be my youngest readers, and I may love them like my own, but at the end of the day they are readers just the same… and readers may always choose not to read.
Linda’s lesson still dictates much of how I write for my imaginary audience: to have you cheering half the time, to enrage you the rest of the time… and to keep you coming back for more 100% of the time.
© Tami Blake