Putting together Innovative Editing’s newest Genuine Writer e-booklet guide the other day, I happened upon a memory from 2016. It involved an authorial quote attributed to Don DeLillo, which went like this:
The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence.
If that authorial quote wasn’t actually made by Don DeLillo, then I’m very sorry for spreading such slander. It isn’t a statement anyone – writer or otherwise – should ever want to be associated with when it’s utterly absurd and arrogant to the point of being dangerous.
Innovative Editing consistently stands by the statement that authors are humans. So are editors, for the record. This isn’t a writer-bashing post. It’s simply a realistic acknowledgement that humans are humans.
As such, we’re not omniscient. We’re not omnipotent. And we’re not omnipresent as that authorial quote wants to paint us.
Anyone who believes otherwise is probably a dictatorial-minded wretch with delusions of godhood – a state of being that each and every one of us is all-too inclined toward when push comes to shove.
For instance, talking to my brother the other day, we got into a playful snipping match about our political differences. And I ended up telling him I looked forward to the day when we got up to heaven and he had to admit I’d been right about everything.
It was a joke. Mostly. But I really felt convicted to apologize about it later on when that’s such a dangerous mindset to be playing with.
The day I, you, they or we truly believe we’ve got absolutely everything figured out is the day we start devaluing our fellow human beings, sometimes to truly horrific levels.
For my part, I know I hold my beliefs very strongly. I read a lot, listen a lot, think a lot and write a lot, all of which I use to maintain those very strong beliefs. But none of that means I stand “outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence.”
I’m influenced by my upbringing and the fact that I had an overall outstanding childhood where I never once felt like “just” the second daughter of three girls and four kids. That’s a major blessing, but it can also lead to certain levels of naivety just as much as a bad childhood can lead to unhealthy levels of cynicism.
I’m also influenced by my smaller stature. That’s led people to underestimate me more times than I can count, which has led me to foster a sometimes over-inflated sense of independence.
Self-sufficiency is a wonderful thing, but it can be taken too far.
We can easily say the same about authorial pride. As writers, we’re supposed to appreciate our process and results. Bring on the well-deserved pride for a job well done!
But a job well-done requires considering every angle that we reasonably can as we work to better ourselves, not just our readers.
As non-fiction writers, our highest calling isn’t to preach. It’s to teach. And as fiction writers, our greatest goal is to engage, not to program.
In order to do that, we have to first accept that we’re products of both nature and nurture, for good and bad. Then we have to do everything we can to encourage the good and mitigate the bad… which requires constant reminders that we’re not omniscient.
We’re not omnipotent.
And we’re not omnipresent.
There’s always going to be a worthwhile outside perspective we won’t be able to fully grasp. No matter what an authorial quote by Don DeLillo or someone else says to the contrary.