Afraid to Speak

ImageI am currently writing a book that is a mix of both fiction and non-fiction.  In the book both Ben and I discuss gender and sexuality and offer our opinions on defining men and women and our own sexuality.

This scares me.

  Everywhere you look there are writers getting in deep shit for writing something contentious, for writing their true feelings or even for tweeting the ‘wrong thing’.  It’s a big bad world out there full of millions of people ready to leap on you for the smallest ‘misstep’.

This clearly isn’t new.  Before the legions of internet trolls and angry groups of activists there were people with pitchforks and torches and before that there were beheadings and scallopings and all manner of painful torment for people who just wanted to express themselves.

I certainly wouldn’t go so far to compare myself with great philosophers who have been murdered for speaking up, but I do know some of my opinions and feelings will be contentious and that worries me.

I’m not one to stay quiet, I never have been.  It’s caused me no shortage of stress of course and on many occasions I’ve been verbally assaulted for my views.  But I just can’t shut up.  I feel the need to say how I feel, say it loud and write it in books and try to get them published so everyone can read them.  It’s kind of a little self destructive I guess.  I mean I could pick something nice and safe to write about, couldn’t I?  But no.  I have to be interested in the things people get riled up about.  I choose to write about sex, gender, abuse, psychopathy, drugs, death.  I choose to write about topics that scare me or make me uncomfortable.

When I’ve really piped up and shared my feelings and thoughts I’ve been called many horrible names and had people go off on me, cease listening and just overwhelm me with their anger.  I’ve even been called a murderer because of some of my views.  But still I go back for more.

I don’t want to be afraid to speak but I am sometimes.  I’m only human, I care about what other people think of me and I don’t want to offend.  But I also want to be true to myself, I want to be honest in my writing and I don’t want to shut up just because the trolls might come banging on my door.

So what’s a girl to do?

Write.  Just keep saying what I want to say.  Because what other choice do I have?  I clearly want to venture onto contentious ground and if I didn’t I wouldn’t be me.

So here are my rules for self expression for those who want to speak up and are afraid to do so:

1) It’s alright to express yourself no matter what.
2) It’s alright to change your mind.  The things you have said in the past might not apply in the future.
3) Feelings are subjective and oftentimes neither right or wrong.
4) Try not to fret over people who refuse to listen or understand your perspective and feelings.
5) Philosophy and practicality are two different things.  It’s alright to discuss things from a top down view.
6) Just say it.
7) If you’ve changed your mind don’t be afraid to admit it.
8) Write, write, write!

How do you get past the barriers of being afraid to speak?


Don’t be afraid (of dialogue)


Dialogue used to freak me out.

I thought it was a bit of jerk.

I wrote my stories with minimal dialogue and it worked, for a time.  The problem with a lack of dialogue is stories tend to get thick and dense pretty fast.  Now thick and dense isn’t always a bad thing, but sometimes it’s good to mix it up.

So I held my breath and dove into the world of dialogue.  I started with just dialogue, nothing more, no descriptions, just simple back and forth between two characters.  I loved it.  It flowed, the characters developed themselves and I found it an absolute joy to write.  After my fudge-thick dialogue free stories it felt effervescent to write in pure conversation.  After that, I wrote another dialogue-only story.  Interestingly, both stories took a turn into the comedic (which I didn’t know I could even accomplish).  This was quite a change from the more moody and dark stories I had been working on before.  So not only did my experimentation lead me to a new found interest in dialogue, but it also led me to an understanding that I can, in fact, write something mildly funny!

Next it was onto a more integrated approach.  I wanted to write something that included both dialogue and non-dialogue descriptions.  I had my doubts about my ability in this department too.  Would it flow well?  Would it feel natural?  The story took a little while to develop (see: Let your story stew) but once I got to writing, it just poured out onto the page as though it had always been there.  It was exciting and I got to know my characters in a way I wasn’t entirely used to.  I got a chance to hear their voices.

Overall I was so inspired by this process that I have decided to pursue thoughts on a new novel.  My last book (sitting unedited on my computer) had little in the way of dialogue for the most part (it is a book of short stories and I only started experimenting more with dialogue half way through).  Now that I have developed a new perspective on conversation in writing I feel as though I am ready to give a longer format story another try.

Dialogue used to freak me out, but now I think it’s awesome. 

What are you afraid of?  Do you ever wonder if your fear is holding you back from a style you might love?  From stories that are waiting to be told?  Take your fears and give them a kick in the butt.  Write something you have always wanted to try.  Do it now!

Have you done it yet?  Great, let me know how it went!