Fear and the Writer

No, I'm not talking about the so-called writer's block enigma. The scary blank page. The unfinished book that has no end in sight. Those are too easy. I'm talking about fear of the government. Yours and mine. Just this week, I needed to research a plot point for the current work-in-progress, and my first instinct was to hit the Internet, the library, and then friends of the law enforcement type with experience in arresting this particular form of illegal activity. When I mentioned the plot device to my husband, he visibly paled. "Don't run that through Google," he sighed. "What if the FBI shows up at our door and takes all our computers?" His fear stopped me cold, then I began to analyze it. He was right. Information on the Internet isn't free- our government is watching, I'm sure. Even we writers who need to learn stuff for a book. Small defense, that one. As a lawyer, I recognized the implications once I set aside my writer cap. So, I took the next step that made sense - I emailed a friend with law enforcement expertise, and put in the heading of my email the topic I needed to discuss. His phone call came almost immediately. "Don't put anything like that in an email, okay?" he ordered. "The government has a program that'll find it and who knows what comes next?" Yikes. I'd done it this time. Fortunately, he shared his special knowledge with me over the phone. Although we laughed that the conversation was probably being monitored, I wondered later if it was a joke. I won't know unless and until the men with badges take me 'downtown.' In the meanwhile, I'll keep writing, using my friend's good information to make the plot device plausible, and hope I've swooped under the government's increasingly pervasive radar. Sounds like the Sixties again, doesn't it, with Herbert Hoover's unrestrained invasion into the privacy of thousands of unsuspecting Americans? Oh well, I cut my teeth on controversy - you can't practice law and avoid it. But if you don't hear from me in a while, send up the distress flags.