“With great power comes great responsibility.” Uncle Ben (Spiderman)
The American Constitution and Bill of Rights has given its citizens the great power
of free speech. But with the freedom to say what we need or want to say comes the
great responsibility to express ourselves wisely. As writers, we know the potential
of words to communicate and agitate, educate and vindicate, motivate and
exhilarate. Of all people, we know words matter. Otherwise why spend hours
parsing each one, agonizing over the right verb or adjective to convey our thoughts
In whatever literary genre we specialize, we are imparting knowledge. Certainly in
non-fiction categories, like history or journalism, getting the details right—the
dates, the quotes, the facts—is critical. Even in fiction we want our characters,
settings, and plots to ring true, enticing our readers into our make-believe worlds.
Back in the 1700s, the early colonists risked significant retribution for bad-
mouthing the English King, but the necessity to express opinions and ideals in an
open forum led to the founding of this country. Today in 2020, there appears to be
nothing that can’t be said or written. We are inundated 24/7 across multiple
platforms with news, opinion pieces, blog posts, pod casts, commercial and social
media. No matter where you fall on the political or ideological spectrum, someone
is ready to give you a piece of their mind—regardless of whether the information is
spin doctored, cherry picked, based on incorrect data, totally fabricated, or has
We’ve all heard the advice to think before we speak—and that also applies to
writing. As the caretakers of language, writers have a responsibility to use our
voices carefully. Years ago I discovered an acronym to remember that counsel.
THINK. Is it True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessary, is it Kind?
It is not our duty nor our right to censor others, but we can act as role models for
responsible expression. Does that mean you must keep your opinions to yourself?
No, just make sure what you print is accurate and doesn’t deliberately cause undue
harm to an individual or group. Does that mean you can’t write fluff or fantasy or
take your imagination wherever it wants to go? No, not every work needs to offer
a lesson or a solution. Escapism is why many people read. Does it mean that you
can’t have villains or that they must always get their comeuppance? No, but all
characters need an arc that evolves over the course of a story—that’s
just good writing. However, they don’t all need to become saints.
But if you write to the best of your ability—write from your heart—write as if you
might make a difference, then you are writing, and living, by Uncle Ben’s words.
Diana is a Baby Boomer, diehard Beatles fan, and now an Author on Amazon.