I am a coward. For the most part, I choose the safe road. I love intellectual conversation, but when the tides flow against my opinion I tend to clam up. I don’t like conflict and tend to let the opposition think I agree by remaining silent. The good thing about this tactic is that I am forced to listen to the other side which in some cases just encapsulates my own opinion in concrete. Other times, it leads people to believe I’m something that I’m not and that’s a problem.
Being a writer means taking risks. It means putting forth something personal for every reader to judge. All art is like this. The artist has something to say and puts heart and soul into illustrating his message. Some will like what they see and some will hate it or even be offended by it.
I tend to write warm and fuzzy stories containing little snippets of sunshiny days and feel good moments. I think I do this out of fear or at least apprehension. I’m ok with people critiquing my writing skill; I know it’s a work in progress and there’s always room to improve but if I write about something controversial or something I feel strongly about, I might open myself up to dialogue in which I have to defend my opinion and that makes me uncomfortable. I am a coward.
Fred White says that by going with the flow to be accepted by the majority is to risk compromising our own integrity. Whoa, that is heavy. What feels like keeping the peace to me is actually betraying my own belief system? Yikes! Fred challenges writers to attack those issues we feel might be too controversial and investigate why we tend to shove those projects to the back of the drawer.
I once started doing character development on an antagonist for a story I was working on. I wanted to get inside his head to figure out his motivation. I ended up discovering a very jaded womanizer with a tendency for violence who felt entitled to take whatever he wanted. It freaked me out. Why was this guy living in my head? I put the brakes on the project and shoved it to the back of the desk drawer. It made me uncomfortable and I didn’t like the feeling. Yep, coward.
I see now, how letting that guy live on the page will give depth to my writing. He’s the antagonist. It’s his job to make the reader uncomfortable. I need him to supply the tension and create the conflict or there’s no reason to tell the story. Someday I’ll let this sleeping creep out of the drawer and I’ll work on being brave because I hate to think I’m compromising my integrity. Thanks for the kick in the pants, Fred.