Free Speech



When I was working on Fearless Writing, my editor had some questions about a section about coincidences. She was unclear what I meant when I said I didn’t believe they existed. I was upset the first time I read her notes. I believe the exact complaint I shared with my wife was, “I wrote it in English. What’s so hard to understand?” The next day, however, I went back to the manuscript and found a better way to illustrate my point, comparing coincidence to the way stories often seem to come together magically.

I think of my editor these days whenever I hear people talking about “free speech.” As a writer, I’m a big fan of free speech. I couldn’t do what I do without it. I must be free to pursue any idea using any language I deem necessary. I don’t deliberately want to push boundaries, but I also don’t want to be bound by anyone else’s idea of what a person should write about. Unfortunately, other people are free to misunderstand me. Other people are free to think I’m an idiot, or a dullard, or even a misogynist or a racist, whether I am or not. That’s the arrangement: no one gets to tell me what to say, and I don’t get to tell anyone what think of what I’ve said.

When people (or people in the west, at least) complain about infringements on their free speech, they’re usually complaining about being criticized for what they’ve said. I understand how frustrating this is. I often feel a twinge of victim-hood whenever I’m misunderstood. “I’m innocent!” I think. “You and your muddled thinking are guilty.” But in all my years of writing and talking, I’ve never once figured out how to make anyone understand me. All I can do is try to be clearer and more honest.

I spend a lot of time wondering if I’ve been clear and honest enough. There’s no science to this writing thing. I could always say anything differently. So when I finish something and release it into the wild, I try to remember that everyone who might read it is as innocent I am. They might like what I’ve shared or hate it, but when they put it down they, like me, will remain bound only by their desire to understand the value of their own lives within a mind free to think anything at all.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.