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Violently Embracing the Violent

Colum McCann > Letters to Young Writers > Violently Embracing the Violent

How has the passion of our calling been robbed from us? The crisis of our age is that people are living in stunned submission to the political circumstance of the times. We are being bought off by our comforts. At the same time social outrages are unfolding at our feet. But never forget that writing is a form of civil disobedience. It is the freedom to articulate yourself differently against power. You should stand outside, free of coercion, intimidation, cruelty, duress. Where power wants to simplify, you should complicate. Where power wants to moralise, you should criticize. Where power wants to intimidate, embrace. The amazing thing about good writing is that it can find the pulse of the wound without having to inflict the wound. This is a way of recognising violence without praising it or suffering it. Writing gets to the moment of the wound. We should continue to stand on the outside. We should become more dangerous. We should have people fear our bite. Don’t confuse literature with ease… the fact is we must talk about the grime and the thousand other everyday torments. We must speak of experience no matter how bitter or lacerating. Good writing has to shock, seduce, and at least WANT to drag us out of our stupor.