Tag Archives: courage

Don’t Water It Down

10 Oct

Water glass
When I write something, I usually don’t publish it right away. I sit with it for a little bit, during which time I edit it, and generally try to make it better. And also: I feel afraid and worry. In the uncensored writing of my first draft, did I express any particularly strong opinions? Did I take a stand for or against something? Possibly come off as sarcastic, harsh or worst of all, angry or mean? Say anything that could potentially offend anyone I’ve ever known or could one day meet?

Then, during my process of adding commas and correcting misspellings, I go about diluting strong opinions that slipped in. I soften rough edges. I add very balanced and diplomatic explanations of comments that could be perceived as me being for or against something. I take out parts that seem sarcastic, harsh, angry and/or mean, and replace them with things that make me sound nice, cute, and likeable, so that everyone will like me.

Predictably, what all this watering down does, is weaken my writing. So then, with my stomach twisted into knots, I proceed to go over the piece again and drain the water, adding back what I took out, strengthening my opinions and sharpening up the edges. Because really, I’m not writing to hide who I am behind balanced, diplomatic, couldn’t-possibly-offend-anyone-ever-for-all-time diluted words, and to worry about what other people I may or may not know think of me. I’m writing to show who I am, really. To express what I think and feel. And to actually say something. Which is, a lot of the time, pretty terrifying.

So once my writing is returned to it’s straight up version, I take a deep breath. And then I click Publish.

What I Would Write If I Wasn’t Afraid

25 Aug

Woman writing in notebook

Writing is scary.

I have a compulsion to be nice, an obsession with people liking me. I’m afraid of hurting people in my writing. I often find myself trying to take care of and protect them, with my words. Or I just don’t write those stories.

These are some things I’m afraid of, in my writing:

I’m afraid of hurting my family. I’m afraid of hurting my exes. Of hurting their girlfriends and wives, their ex-girlfriends and ex-wives. I’m afraid of hurting men who have hurt me. I’m afraid co-workers or bosses will read some personal detail about me that will make meĀ  uncomfortable, squirm at the water cooler, look down in the cafeteria. That they’ll read something that will adversely affect my review, even though I don’t get reviewed at my job. I’m afraid that an imagined future employer will Google me and decide not to hire me, because I’m a flawed human being who struggles, and my flaws and struggles are Google-able. I’m afraid I’ll hurt friends, acquaintances, people I don’t like, and people I can’t stand.

But recently, I’ve been asking myself, What would I write if I wasn’t afraid? And the answer is: A lot. The countless stories that are crouching in corners, I’d write them if I didn’t have to navigate my fears, take care of this person, protect that one.

If I wasn’t afraid, I wouldn’t try to hurt people with my writing. I wouldn’t write in ways that criticized and blamed. I’d just…tell the truth. I’d be who I am and tell my stories, honestly and openly, vulnerable, flawed, and struggling. I’d write some things that would make people want to come closer, and other things that would make them want to look away. I’d take ownership of my life and my experiences. I wouldn’t try to take care of everyone else. I wouldn’t apologize, and I wouldn’t hide. I’d write it all. If I wasn’t afraid.

And recently, I’ve been thinking, I don’t want to be afraid anymore.

What are you afraid of? What would you write if you weren’t afraid?