A few months ago, I was contacted by a client of mine who was in a pickle.
As a goal for her blog which addresses how Blacks are portrayed by the media, and other issues relevant to the African-American community, she wanted to tackle some more controversial topics. Although she was passionate about her themes, and felt morally compelled to initiate important dialogue, she was afraid that in the process, she might “offend someone.” What should she do?
It happens to the best of us. Particularly those of us who are passionate writers. Sometimes we are called to forsake popularity for principle. Sometimes we must court controversy to expose truths, or provoke thought.
This conundrum doesnâ€™t just apply to writers, but almost all creative artists that are in the public eye, or have a platform or following.
Exercising 1st Amendment Rights
Many opt to exercise their 1st amendment rights and speak their own “personal truths.” For better or for worse.
Take for instance, Spike Lee, whose film-making often unapologetically addresses social ills like racism, elitism, stereotypes and the status quo. Though he has garnered his share of criticism in the process, he is relentless in bringing enlightenment to the masses and initiating dialogue and debate to bring about important social reform. In his career heâ€™s been awarded many honors and accolades by industry peers, and continues to serve as a role model for future generations. Not a bad trade-off most would agree.
And who can forget the faux pas of the Dixie Chicks, some years ago when their public comment (and disapproval) about the president caused their “wings to be clipped” and almost caused irreparable damage to their careers.
As I see it, great artists are called to make a difference. And if your work has caused someone to challenge conventional thinking, or open their hearts to new causes like animal rights, or natural disaster plights, or immigration, or have a paradigm shift, take a bow.
Youâ€™re in good company.
Heck, even Hope Clark, the popular editor of Funds for Writers, sometimes shares how her editorials inspire critics and negative comments. It comes with the territory
The bottom line? Itâ€™s a personal call. To quote a popular saying, “Let your conscience be your guide.” But, if you should choose to take the road less traveled.
Tips to Tackling Controversy
Here are a few tips to consider when tackling controversial topics in your blogging.
1. Never use a public platform for a personal issue.
In other words, examine your motives. If your situation is common, and it affects other folks who may not have a platform, and your objective is to cause a positive change, go for it. But donâ€™t spew a lot of mean, belittling comments about a person or organization just to get even. It comes across as unprofessional and vindictive.
2. When possible, remember the effectiveness of a little humor.
Humor is to writing what honey is to medicine. It makes it more palatable.
3. Never â€œpublishâ€ when youâ€™re in the throes of anger.
In other words, write it then sleep on it. If after 24 hours, you still feel the same intensity and sense of purpose, it might be worth pursuing.
4. Choose your battles wisely.
Donâ€™t be perceived as a chronic complainer or one who likes to â€˜stir the potâ€ just for attention. Save your energy and creativity for issues that canâ€™t afford to be ignored.
5. Keep your head up and keep going!
Recognize that no matter how carefully you choose your words, you run the risk of being misunderstood or maligned.
By following these five tips youâ€™ll be able to cushion the inevitable fall of sometimes going out on the limb in your role as writer.
Have you ever written something that you considered controversial? What were the results of tackling that topic, and were they what you were expected?