Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't play it safe

I have two people that I love very much that are struggling with breast cancer right now. And I'm scared for them, but then right after I stumble over some trite comforting words while one of them is half-sobbing on the phone and I'll tell them I'll pray for them, I go the refrigerator and think about what I want for breakfast and what I should write for my blog post today, and life goes on. I REALLY do care. But so often habit trumps action. I hate that I'm compassionate, but not really. That my heart breaks for a minute, and then my stomach rumbles and the daily routine beckons. 

So one of my commenters, Chitrader, directed me to this jolting list of 33 unusual writing tips last week (from the Altucher Confidential blog), and there are a few things in this list that sort of shook me up and have stayed in my mind all week.
Be Honest. Tell people the stuff they all think but nobody ever says.
So I tried that, in the first paragraph.
Don’t be afraid of what people think. For each single person you worry about, deduct 1% in quality from your writing. Everyone has deductions.
As soon as I wrote that first paragraph, I started worrying. What if nobody else thinks like this? What if I'm really just a selfish, self-focused hypocrite and everyone is going to point fingers at me?
Relate to people. The past decade has totally sucked. For everyone. The country has been in post-traumatic stress syndrome since 9/11 and 2008 only made it worse. I’ve gone broke a few times during the decade, had a divorce, lost friendships, and have only survived (barely) by being persistent and knowing I had two kids to take care of, and loneliness to fight. Nobody’s perfect. We’re all trying. Show people how you are trying and struggling. Nobody expects you to be a superhero.
My husband's business went bankrupt in 2010 and he's working for about $15 an hour right now and that really hurts his pride, but at the same time we are both just thankful we have jobs. I love to write, but I hate to re-write, and re-writing is like 80 or 90% of writing, and I feel like a failure when I keep putting it off. I'm not strong enough to strive after my dreams. I just limp along, too worn about by the essential requirements of each day to really pursue my writing dreams.  But, I'm still thankful. My family is healthy, and we apologize and forgive each other after we fight.
Risk. Notice that almost all of these rules are about where the boundaries are. Most people play it too safe. When you are really risking something and the reader senses that (and they WILL sense it), then you know you are in good territory. If you aren’t risking something, then your readers are moving on.
 I have a hard time taking risks. I usually play it safe and put on a pleasant front. I'm really scared to press Publish on a post like this. Be brave with me - what are you afraid to press Publish on?

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