How Censorship and Invalidation Psychologically Damage Writers


Writers always have faced some degree of criticism and difficulty getting their work out into the world. We’ve never had the easiest time when it comes to having our craft respected. Now, though, censorship and invalidation are making wordsmithing almost unbearable. At least, that’s how I’ve felt over the past year.

The forms of censorship and invalidation writers are facing

As ad revenue has tanked, most publications have dramatically changed how and what they produce. Book bans, often tied to religious or political movements, have gained steam across the country. I can go on social media any day of the week and see posts about writers struggling to market their books. I read their stories about constant rejection by traditional agents and publishers. And on top of it all, individuals and companies alike are choosing to use AI rather than hire human writers. Platforms like Amazon are flooded by scams of AI-generated books and unauthorized summaries of existing legitimate content.

Why the current environment is taking a toll

Psychologists long have acknowledged that the suppression or lack of ability to express feelings and thoughts can cause a crisis in a person’s sense of self. When a person wants to communicate but repeatedly receives the message from both individuals and culture that their desired communication doesn’t matter, they can become convinced that, on some level, they’re unworthy or bad. Why else would the world be telling them so strongly to be quiet? In our sense to make meaning out of the reactions of others, it’s difficult for a writer to entertain the idea that something is wrong with the people they must use as a mirror.

So, I can’t help but feel it.

This sense that writers psychologically feel suffocated from all the censorship and invalidation they’re getting hit with. Unimportant. Like we have no voice anymore. Like trying to write has shifted from Rocky Balboa proving he can take repeated punches to Sisyphus never getting out from under the rock he’s pushing uphill.

What you can do to keep your voice

If you’re feeling suffocated, as I have been, here are some things to try that might help you catch a breath:

  • Join a writer support group. Having other people who can offer empathy through your struggle as a wordsmith can help you feel less alone. It also can provide opportunities for constructive feedback. They can widen your network to connect you with the resources you need to make specific writing projects viable.
  • Start your own publication. This might be a website or work you self-publish on platforms like Amazon. But by taking back control over where your work appears and what you charge, you can reduce the stress that comes from not knowing what third parties are going to do next.
  • Establish a routine. Although content sometimes can go viral, overnight success in writing is rare. It’s more common for writers to establish a loyal readership very slowly by showing up over and over again in a schedule that makes sense for their real life. Consistent persistence ensures gives you the kind of extensive portfolio that’s hard to ignore.
  • Connect to spirituality or a higher power. This isn’t so you can throw up your hands and leave the fate of your career to the heavens. It’s so that you connect to a deep sense of where you come from and what your purpose is. Your purpose includes a specific flavor of creativity and messages only you can deliver. The more you understand what you’re here for and what you’re supposed to communicate, the more conviction you can feel about persisting in the craft and not giving up. Write for a reason bigger than simply loving the work.
  • Take a stand. To fight biases harmful to writers, educate others. Get involved in community groups, introduce legislation, participate in book launches, etc. These activities protect freedom of expression by establishing boundaries around what others can and cannot do to writers and their content.

Don’t go down with regrets

I cannot predict how the world will view writers down the road. But I do know that if I do not fight for the craft — and for every other writer trying to survive in it, I will regret it. I’m not willing to settle for that, and I hope you aren’t either.

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