Artistic Freedom & the Creative Spirit

In June of 2019, I resigned my nine-year-long membership in Romance Writers of America. Here are my reasons:

A writers’ organization’s purpose is to support and inform writers regarding their industry. Romance Writers of America has been commendably diligent in this purpose for many years. The organization has had a hand in the successful careers of hundreds of romance writers and continues to encourage published and unpublished writers to achieve their goals.

Through fora, contests, industry links to publishers and agents, regional and topic-specific chapters and particularly, the annual national conference (during which authors meet, share knowledge and strengthen friendships), RWA has made the careers of its members much less daunting and isolated. For all of these, RWA can be praised and respected.

In past years, the organization has taken on a new role, one encouraged by many of its legacy and fledgling members. This new role stems from an urge to become better. That in itself is always an admirable task, one that many of us undertake at the beginning of a new year, a new novel, a new friendship. The effort to become better is a personal journey and not necessarily a writer’s journey.

Over the past several years, this new role has garnered advocates within the organization and has been launched as a way forward for chapters and their individual members in bylaws and fora etiquette with the ultimate goal of making RWA a forerunner in decency, civility and morality. All of these are admirable goals — goals that we can all, in our private lives, strive to achieve.

When a professional, industry-specific organization takes on the role of marshaling the conscience, thoughts, behavior and morality of its members, it becomes an institution of censorship and repression. When such an organization allows its members to harass and ridicule members with whom they disagree, it becomes a mechanism of tyranny. When that organization begins to dictate how its members perform their professional enterprise and encourages repressive directives to conform, it no longer represents or supports the freedom of creativity.

Though a painful decision because I had made many friends and benefitted from the conferences, I found that my writing suffered from the stifling influence of “groupthink” and the Marxist/Leninist compliant “Politically Correct” thought and content policing of artistic freedom and the fundamentally important free spirit of creativity.

Recovering from second-guessing my effort to write about and celebrating the human spirit caused by this interference has taken time. I am now ready to write according to my own values and beliefs once again, with gratitude to all my fellow writers and my readers for their support during this hiatus.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys, Novelist

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