Much has been put forth on this subject, probably all valid, yet as writers, we are always looking for the unifying concept, the one eternal truth that ties it all together. Does such a truth exist? Perhaps the closest we can come is to say that the writer must fulfill myriad responsibilities, both to self and to society, and they are all valid. This is not to say that all writing is worthy of dissemination.
That a writer does have responsibility seems to be a given, but why? Perhaps “purpose” might be a more accurate term, because surely one’s purpose in writing does not necessarily involve responsibility, or does it? That the written word is offered democratically, to an audience that is no longer limited by geography, language or culture, seems reason enough to consider responsibility, yet is such responsibility no more binding than one’s general responsibility with regard to one’s speech within society? Should a writer’s responsibility be any more or less than any person’s responsibility to converse civilly, sincerely, and at times eloquently?
Both the spoken and written word respond to the charge of responsibility, but differently. Spoken words strike, then evaporate like the snow in spring, sometimes leaving ruts of mud from which a flower or two may bloom, or simply ruts. The written word, however, is like an eternal summer, which blooms and blooms and develops all manner of color and foliage which does not wilt except after the passage of several lifetimes, and sometimes not even then– witness the influence of the scriptures of great religions. As tenders of such gardens, writers have a profound responsibility. If you are a writer, tend your garden well.