Writer’s Block or Self-Censorship? — By Jennifer Shipp
Guanajuato Mexico North America Trips

Writer’s Block or Self-Censorship? — By Jennifer Shipp

I have thoughts, but I don’t want to write them down. I don’t even want to have a glimmer of the thoughts I’m having inside my head. But things aren’t going to go back the other way and I think we all know it. Eventually, I’ll have to accept what’s there and work with it… I don’t even know what that means yet.

I sit down to write, because this is what I do…I write. But right now, and for the past 9 months, nothing happens. I have nothing to say to my Self. The voice that writes is silent and scared. It waits.

What is it waiting for?

My hands are poised above the keys.

I’m ready.

A voice says,”not until you get back…”

Self-censorship is a powerful thing. I believe that in our natural state, most of us are writers. Most of us are orators. We’re poets and artists. But the world teaches us to be silent. To be still. To crawl into an uncomfortable mold and sit quietly, without complaining. We shouldn’t jostle or rattle. The mold is righteous. We’re taught to worship it. The world teaches us to hide ourselves. To conform. To be perverse. Some of the conformity is necessary to keep the peace, but the line is fuzzy. At what point is keeping the peace like lighting a bomb that’s set to go off at some unknown point in the future?

Normally, I speak. And I write. But now, without being told to do so…I hold it in. I ask myself, “what are you holding in?” but the voice is mute. It won’t tell me. It isn’t safe.

I avoid the news. I don’t want to know. And I know that the news is only a fragment of the truth. A tiny seed of what’s really going on behind an opaque wall.

It hurts to have traveled and to have seen the United States from abroad. My feelings are mixed. They’re conflicted. Who are we? With each new country and each passing season, I’ve realized that we aren’t who we think we are. Americans: we’re consumers. Pigs at a trough. But our government is something different. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not what I want it to be. I hesitate to make judgment on something as big and foreboding as the United States government. What is it? In world politics, if all the different countries were children on a playground, the United States would be the big rich kid who bullies everyone else. I don’t want this to be true. With every fiber of my being, I want the United States to be the nice kid, the one who sticks up for the others who are being bullied. But that’s not what I’ve seen. That’s not what I’ve experienced. But I’ve only been to 5 different continents, so what do I know?

To say what people don’t want to hear is a dangerous thing. It’s a dangerous thing to say it how it is to a mass of people who lack logic and self-control. To be in the midst of a majority of people who lack the ability to argue with their minds. People who argue by name-calling or by lashing out to hurt the people who disagree with them. People who argue like toddlers.

What should I say? The voice is my head says, “Be silent. Say nothing.”

I wait. Apprehensive.

The voice says, “Leave.”

It says, “Go quickly. Leave your things behind.”

Should the voice have said something else? Does it make you, the reader, angry to hear what my inner voice says? Why? It’s my inner voice, after all, not your inner voice. Listen to your own inner voice, damn it. Your inner voice might disagree and that’s fine. Your inner voice may say, “Stay”. So fucking stay. Write about the experience of staying if you want. That’s your right. But your humanity is not bigger than mine. My humanity is not bigger than yours.

To the ones who understand and empathize with these words, I know I’m already speaking to the converted. He who has ears let him hear…

Maybe my inner voice says something that resonates with yours. Maybe? Maybe this makes you feel scared. But fear is an unpleasant emotion. Anger is better. Anger is easier. Isn’t it? It’s more acceptable. Angry people seem POWERFUL. Fearful people seem weak.


It’s feeding time and the pigs want their dinner. When the trough is full, the pigs don’t want to leave. It’s only when the trough is empty long enough that the pigs will revolt, but by then it will be too late.

My inner voice says, “Leave. Go quickly.” But the trough is full and the pigs want to eat in peace. So my inner voice chides me to stay silent.

“Don’t explain. Just go.”

But we’re more than pigs and so I can’t help it. It’s not right to stay silent. We can be more than pigs. Our humanity is not completely gone. There’s more to us than our desire to have MORE. We’re complex and unpredictable. But La-Z-Boy’s and McDonald’s have made us into something we were never meant to be. These things have made us sick and comfortable with being sick.

I want to scream, “DO SOMETHING!” but the words project through a long tunnel from where I am to where you are. And the words don’t make sense. What is there to do? Will you get in your car and drive across the country to see all the homogeneity? How every city looks the same? How unhappy Americans are? Will you go from one coast to the other and realize that there’s little in between here and there except small communities dying while chain restaurants and “convenience” stores take their places along the interstates? That the car is your coffin. Will you notice? That the brand names littering our landscapes suck the life out of this planet, your world? Where is your family? Where is your community? What if things are changing like the temperature of a pot of water on a hot stove? What if you’re a frog and you don’t notice the boiling water until it’s too late? The trains may never come and the Gestapo may not drag you to the concentration camps, but can they tether your mind without your knowing? Can they?

And what happens then? Once your mind is tethered…

Maybe it’s tethered now.

Is it?

But I suppose these things happen all the time. And we’ve turned away those who are suffering. What if our turn to suffer comes within the same lifetime? We’ve live comfortable lives, unwilling to share. Who will share with us?

Humans persevere and then prosper and then, what they build enters a period of decline. This has been the cycle since civilization first took shape. Inevitablye the wrong people take power. And the little people, complacent after years of comfort and peace, are confused. They hesitate before acting. They just want to eat. They just want to have. They want their comfort. I suppose that yes, these things happen all the time. But I never expected to see it happen in my homeland, in the United States in this lifetime.

To read about it in a history book is one thing, but to watch it happen to people I once knew; to people I care about is something else.

It doesn’t seem right to stay silent. What’s going on right now in our country is something that’s been brewing for a long time. It’s not the beginning.

It’s the end.

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