Excuse Me, Writer, Your Bias Is Showing


The Definition of the Week this time around is for the word “bias.” This is something that came up two weeks ago when we were focusing on how to market your novel or non-fiction book. For that matter, it came up accidentally again this past Wednesday as well when I addressed the topic of how wrong our best-intentioned assumptions can be.

But we’re going to go into much further depth now. Like this:

Bias

According to my favorite go-to definition resource, Dictionary.com, the first meaning of the word bias is “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned.”

Regardless of whether yours fits the “especially” qualifier or not, and regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you have a bias. It’s inevitable to have opinions about the “proper” order of life. And those are just as inevitably going to show in your writing.

I do recognize that bias has a distinctly negative connotation, but try to move past that for the moment. It’s completely and totally possible to have one and still be logical, accurate and all-around correct. It’s simply that the logical, accurate and all-around correct answer is derived through a set of opinions and understandings of how the world operates.

In addition, I’m in no way negating the concept of absolute truth. It exists. As does a whole lot of gray matter, admittedly. Though, of course, there are people out there who would call that second statement a bias as well. (It is. Yet to support it, I’ll throw out this absolute truth that I sincerely hope we can all agree on: Rape is always wrong, right?)

Confused yet?

Understood. In fact, that state of mind is another pretty decent definition of bias. Bias confuses the issues at hand, making us see arguments or philosophies from different angles instead of as a whole picture. It’s inevitable based on the ethical understanding we were born with, the education we received, and the individuality we choose or choose not to claim.

To further explain, let’s be perfectly fair. Or as fair as my biases allow me to be. Let’s pick on this article’s author, Jeannette DiLouie. She makes a particularly easy target this week thanks to the blog post she wrote yesterday in honor of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I’ll flat-out admit how that piece came from a conservative bias. It assumed that terrorist attacks need to be called out as terrorist attacks, that the victims deserve to be honored, and even that there is a common denominator involved in these increasingly common acts of brutality.

Now, reading those statements of mine, you’re automatically going to have a reaction based on your own biases, whether in favor of mine or against them. Depending on your worldview – your way of looking at life – you’re going to either mostly agree with me or mostly disagree. Moreover, your biases will probably have you reading into what I said.

(Again, that’s what they do. To all of us.)

While I’m really hoping that your assumptions paint me in a logical, accurate and all-around correct fashion, I can’t force my opinion onto you any more than you can force yours onto me. Not without some serious psychological manipulations, anyway – something I have no interest in doing here.

The purpose of this week’s focus isn’t to make you think like me at all. As usual, it’s only to strengthen your writing, encouraging you to be the best writer you can possible be.

And that would be one who’s logical, accurate and as correct as their biases allow them to be.

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