When I was in college, I remember a discussion we had in class about pen names and personal censorship. It was a mixed bag of graduates and undergrads, adults with real jobs and cocky little kids (like me) but one thing that drew us together was a certain Columbia-brand scorn for holding back from our audiences. I think inexperienced writers often feel that they fly this ragged banner that separates them from journalists in a weird, vulnerable-or-nothing sort of way– you have a truth to tell and that alone is holy. The weird thing is that we also gravitated unabashedly toward non-fiction in those days. I hated non-fiction back then, so my only duty was to the story. If ever called upon to evaluate myself, and my own personal growth as an artist since college, I’d say that this is my most valuable change: the idea that there’s something out there more important than the art. There are people who can be hurt by the things that you write, and if they matter to you, you have a duty to protect them. If your truth is hateful and cruel and mean, maybe nobody’s going to call you a liar, but certainly you’re still an asshole doing disservice to the craft.

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