Skip to main content

What you leave out

I just wrote a piece yesterday about date rape. I debated whether or not to add a footnote saying something like "Yes, I KNOW not all date rape is a case of miscommunication and alcohol-fueled confusion. Some people are just rapists, full stop."

I ultimately chose to not do that. The piece includes passages about men intentionally getting women drunk to take advantage of them. The piece includes statements that clearly indicate doing so is rape.

No matter how carefully I say it, no piece of writing will ever be immune to bad people intentionally twisting my words so they can try to tell you "I am not really a rapist. I was just confused and didn't understand that her screaming NO 27 times and clawing at my eyes meant I was raping her. I just thought she liked rough sex!"

People who do bad things intentionally don't usually fess up the minute they are caught red-handed and go "You got me. I'm just a bad person and I just like hurting people and getting over and taking more than my fair share. Send me to jail."

No, such people have a tendency to bald-faced lie and try to talk you into believing whatever BS they can snow you with and will be happy to pounce on a piece and use it with malice aforethought to serve their nefarious ends.

That's not on me. That's on them and there is no means to prevent such people from intentionally trying to twist your words to serve their evil ends.

If you are unwilling to speak to certain subjects lest some monster intentionally twist your intent for their bad faith purposes, you will find yourself silenced.

Sexual subjects are inherently hard to write about well. You must be prepared for your words to be wildly misinterpreted by a LOT of people reading them if you choose to try to add some value in this world on such topics.

Some of those people will simply be ordinary people in pain reacting strongly to something that hit a nerve. Others will be people with uglier and more conscious motives for taking your words to mean something you did not intend.

Long experience suggests to me that it is possible to learn to say it better and stop giving people easy openings for taking your words weird places you never intended, but such experience has also taught me that giving in to the temptation to address your accusers before they can make their accusations is an insidious kind of derail that causes evil to win before good has had a chance to go to bat.

It's better to say the thing you wish to say, read through it and see if it actually says the thing. Then try to let it stand on its own, KNOWING some people will misinterpret it.

Think of it as being like a colorful vase in an empty room on a pedestal with a light shining on it. It's the ONLY thing in the room. You want all eyes on THIS thing and ONLY this thing.

You do not wish to mar it by adding a zillion signs saying "THIS is NOT x, y and z." Because then it's no longer the only thing in the room.

If you spend all your time saying "I am not talking about X." well, yes, NOW you are, in fact talking about X and it's possibly all you will ever talk about. Adding that sign means the colorful vase may get no attention at all because the sign will be what people focus on.

Talking about the thing you wish to say and resisting the temptation to tell people ahead of time "This is not X" is sometimes the hardest part of writing a piece. It's also something most other people won't see at all.

Good writing is as much about what you leave out as it is about what you put in. This is non-obvious to most people, often even to many writers.

Popular posts from this blog

Sticky This: See a typo? Submit a pull request.

For the first time ever, I submitted a pull request yesterday to an open source project notifying them of a typo. It was accepted within hours. Submitting the pull request was easy and took almost no time. The process of submitting it gave me valuable prompts, such as "This field is typically no more than 50 characters." I've been on Hacker News for over eleven years. I began wondering how on earth I can contribute to open source as a non-coder a few years back. I've talked to other non-coders who were just as mystified as I was -- or more mystified -- as to how on earth you get into open source as a non coder. So, no, it isn't just me. I spent probably a few hours yesterday trying to sort out how on earth to notify them of their typo. It took me far, far longer to figure out what I needed to do than it took to do it. This is a huge barrier to entry and will stop most people before they begin. Most people simply can't give you three hours of their t

Me. Woodward Park, Fresno, CA. January 2016.

One of my favorites pics of me.

About twenty years to write and about four minutes to read.

For years and years, I had too little in my Amazon account to qualify for a payout. Fifty cents here and ten cents there just was not adding up to the minimum payout threshold. I got my first very small payout a few months back. It seemed likely to me that it was a consequence of Project Bike Rack adding enough money to my balance to put me over the payout threshold. I also had the impression that the bike racks I was seeing in town and not entirely happy with were not living up to my vision in part because probably someone had bought whatever was readily available through Amazon and I suspected it was likely they did so in part to find some means to kick a few bucks my way. It's generally easier to get money out of people by directing them to affiliate links than by some other means, so you get a lot of garbage websites doing fake "reviews" that are really thinly disguised ads because that's a means to make money online. Clearly, I need to eat but I don&#