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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?

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How I got into writing

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This is the first post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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When I was younger I used to write a lot.  Journals mostly, whining about boys (and later girls too), unrequited love, rituals (during my witchy phase) and other teenage stuff that I was sure was insanely important.  I’ve looked back over old journals before, but I find the process of ploughing through years of bad poetry kind of painful.

Next I got into writing plays.  I still have one sitting around about a girl who discovered she was gay and made out with her best friend.  Ah the ponderings of a seventh grade bi-girl.  Then there were stories.  I even wrote a story about a girl on a journey to enlightenment for philosophy class in high school and scored myself an A+ (I went to an alternative school of course).

Then it was world travels.  Long nights were spent scribbling in notebooks on buses, traveling through the desert in Egypt or up and down crazy mountains in Peru, in dirty old hotel rooms or tucked away in sleeping bags on the beach watching the stunning Italian sunset and hoping I wouldn’t wake up after high tide.

I wrote a lot.  But still, through all of that, I didn’t call myself a writer.

I wrote little articles about my adventures with my friends, replacing us with anthropomorphized animals and calling it: The Starry Web Press.  I wrote stories and poems as gifts.  I sent out poems as solstice greetings to friends and family.  Still, I refused to call myself a writer.

No no, I was a traveler, a server, a bartender, a go-go dancer, a shaman, a tarot card reader, an event planner, a video producer, but never…NEVER a writer.

The real turning point came maybe a year ago, after I finished my first novel.  A honking, slow moving, boring laborious thing (150,000 words).  I finished it, looked at Ben and said:

“I think I’m a writer.”

Since then I’ve been on fire, I’ve written multiple short stories, another novel, made a giant list of agents, magazines and contests to submit my work to, started this blog, gathered almost 250 followers on twitter, joined two writing groups (and quit one), and I’ve even been hired to write professionally from video scripts to event proposals to websites.

So although it took me 29 years to admit it, I’m a writer dammit, and just like everything else I’ve been before, I’ve thrown myself into it, heart and soul.

Now it’s your turn…how did you get into writing?

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On Raw Talent

I recently read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King.  It was a good book and one I’d highly recommend for any aspiring writer who wants to know about the journey of a famous, published author.

One of the things that King talks about is talent and I think his theory on it was pretty spot on.  Basically he postulates that there are four types of writers (and I think this can definitely apply to pretty much any art): bad, competent, good & great.  He says it’s impossible to make a bad writer competent or a good writer great, but with a lot of hard work it is possible to make a competent writer good.

I find this to be an interesting theory because I’m absolutely fascinated by the concept of raw talent.  I look at artists who can draw without practice and I’m astounded (I can’t draw for shit, seriously even my stick figures are sad).  I hear these ten year olds on youtube belting out songs with voices of gold and I’m amazed.  I see documentaries about math savants who can see the numbers in their mind’s eye and I’m blown away.  To some people certain talents are just there.  So they work to improve them, but the talent is engrained, so all they’re doing is refining the awesome.

Then, of course, I keep pondering and I come upon things like this:

“I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

Now I’m wondering if that’s what talent is, maybe it’s the patterns and the beauty of the universe (and our brains) that these people are just recognizing and uncovering.  Like everything was all there to begin with and artists are born to find them.  All the stories, all the paintings, all the sculptures, all the equations.  Just waiting to be set free.

Maybe it’s because I used to be a hippy, took too many drugs and philosophized about the universe and how unbelievably crazy it is.  Maybe it’s because I still do that now (minus the drugs and most of the hippy part).  But the concept of raw talent gives me that same feeling I get when I stare up into the stars on a clear night, or when I was in Egypt looking up at those giant pyramids.  Wonder.  I mean think about it for a second, why are some people so good at things and other people are crap?  What are your talents, do you have one special thing or multiple things?  If so, where does it all come from and why?  Pretty crazy.

So talent.  Some people have it, some people don’t.  But does that mean that those who don’t can never achieve the same heights as people who do?  This is completely debatable, because a lot of the time, art is subjective.  Something I might consider to be abject garbage could make someone famous.  Something I adore could languish in obscurity.  So how does one gauge this idea of ‘greatness’?  It’s pretty tough.

But ultimately, at the end of the day, I tend to agree with King.  Perhaps it’s just that people who are bad at things typically don’t practice enough to get better.  But I kind of think there’s predisposition to a thing.  Being good at something usually tends to go hand and hand with a passion for it (I think) and I, for example, don’t have the raw talent of a visual artist.  I do, however, have the talent of a writer and I can only hope that if I try hard enough, I can go from competent to good.  Then again, it’s all just a matter of opinion now isn’t it?

Tell me your thoughts on Stephen King’s theory, or share some stories about awesome raw talent that makes you feel that jaw-dropping kind of wonder.