Why do I write? That is the question I found myself asking, as the calendar turned over this month. Is it all an exercise in ego inflation? Am I fatally addicted to blowhardery? Or is there some higher purpose behind all these words?
The answer came to me like a revelation. I write to persuade. And if I write to persuade, I'm writing for people who disagree with me.
I don't write so I can get a lot of hits online and nice letters from fans who agree with my ideas. I write to persuade those who don't. But written argument is a tricky business; the temptation to exaggerate, to be hurtful and cruel, is very strong in print and it's even worse online. I know; I've succumbed to it many times.
I think I'm a pretty good writer, but I know I'm not a perfect one. Sometimes my aim isn't true. Sometimes a Predator Missile of satire hits some innocent civilians. It doesn't even have to be satire--there is always a danger of collateral damage when one shoots off his mouth in print.
As writers, we don't often stop to think about the regular folks who might be hurt or offended while we're tossing bombs at some big target. I know I haven't. But this is a new year, and I'm thinking about them now.
We've all heard, and been put off by, the mealy-mouthed apologies of politicians, media personalities and sports stars when they forget, for a moment, that their every foolish word will be broadcast on YouTube from here to eternity.
"To anyone who might have been offended by my words, I apologize." Which is tantamount to saying, "It's not really my fault, it's yours. But since you're mad at me, I had my legal team come up with this no-fault apology, because I make too much money being famous to put my endorsements at risk."
I don't have those excuses; I'm neither rich nor famous, so I'll try to be more generous with my apology.