I hear the following sentiment from so many writers: "I
feel restricted, limited in what I may or may not say in my writing.
This feeling of censorship is holding me back, stifling my creativity.
When the truth is held back, creativity is stifled, the work is
flat, rings hollow, fails to inspire."
This leads us directly to the following conventional assumption:
Intentional suppression of creative expression leads to inferior
I would like to brave an answer to this: Although in the past
this has happened, it need not.
Let's consider a chef specializing in low cholesterol, gourmet
cuisine.. Now having to use soy milk in place of cream can be
viewed as an obstacle or a professional challenge. The creative,
resourceful chef would consider it the latter and get to work.
We would expect his/her masterpiece to taste less rich without
the use of cream and butter, but we would accept this because
the benefit of a healthy heart far outweighs the momentary pleasure
of the perfect culinary experience.
Now let's consider the gourmet chef committed to halacha. Don't
we also accept the benefit of a healthy, (pure) soul?
The One who gave us the desire and talent to create is also the
One who gave us the halacha that may sometimes force us to suppress
whatever we feel we must say. Just as we accept the concept of
shimiras haloshen (watching our tongue) there is a higher purpose
to watching what we write.
After airing our frustrations and identifying our weaknesses,
let's search for creative solutions. Suppression is different
than repression. Denying problems is untruthful, and sometimes
psychologically damaging. But not mentioning them directly can
be part of the technical challenge. Using allegory, metaphor,
or symbolism are subtler ways of expressing truth and may even
improve one's ability to communicate in moving and meaningful
We can set new standards and blaze new trails. Our audiences
may not be accustomed to some of these changes in strategy and
technique, but that need not deter us.
Suppose you wanted to switch your family from eating white flour
to whole wheat. Most likely you would make gradual, disguised
and camouflaged changes. The taste might differ, be not quite
as easy to digest, but with time, intention, and skill you can
achieve your aim.
Esther Susan Heller is director
of The Jewish Writing Institute.
© 2009 by Jewish Writing Institute. All rights reserved.
Copyright to individual articles held by authors.