I’ve recently heard from writers who are wondering how vulnerable, raw, or politically correct they should attempt to be in their writing. The overarching fear is that there’s a risk of backlash for potentially offending a reader. And I get it. In this day and age, it’s difficult to discern how differing views and thoughts will be received and how people will react.
I’ve been faced with this dilemma myself and I’m sure many of you have, too. So, at the risk of offending someone, I’m going to share my opinion. But first, I have a confession to make:
I used to be afraid to share my writing with the world.
There, I admitted it. In fact, I rarely even posted updates on Facebook (and still don’t very often!). I mean, seriously, what if I offend someone or they don’t get my weird sense of humor?
Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, it’s natural to fear that people will judge us. I used to worry because my fiction writing can get very dark, and I thought people would think it was a reflection of who I am as a person. It’s not, and anyone who knows me knows that. And my nonfiction writing can often hit a nerve as I write for a faith-based site, and that can be a very sensitive and controversial topic for people. But I simply write from the heart, with the purest of intentions, and hope that comes through, even to the people who disagree with me.
It takes courage to write from the heart, to haunt conventions, even. You have to be ready to stand by your convictions and be prepared to back them up, because whenever you share an opinion or thought with the world, there are going to be people who have an issue with it.
For example, a few years back I posted something that was in support of a controversial topic and next thing I knew a friend of over twenty years unfriended me. Seriously? We can’t agree to disagree? It was tough. A wake-up call for sure. But I stand firm in what I believe and I’m not going to change or back down because someone has a difference of opinion. Instead, I respect their opinion and move on.
I also have a family member who strongly disagrees with me on a particular subject, and I get A LOT of backlash because of it. But I stand by my beliefs. It takes a lot of courage to take the beating when it comes, and believe me, it will come.
There are going to be people who will challenge you, which is why it’s so important to not get lured into the trap of repeating what others are saying or spouting rhetoric. Take the time to get to know your own personal truth and then share it with the world.
You have to ask yourself how far you’re willing to go. What risks are you willing to take? Are you willing to accept the fact that you might be bullied for something you’ve written?
And this doesn’t only apply to nonfiction writers. Fiction writers can take a beating, too. Sometimes we write about very controversial topics and have questionable characters in our stories, and it can be difficult to write freely when we’re worried about being judged, when we’re worried people might claim we’re something we’re not.
It took me a long time to realize, though, that I can’t please everybody. There will always be a group of people who disagree with something I write, because if the whole world agreed with each other, there would be nothing left to say.
Besides, just think of how mundane the world would be if we all thought the same thoughts, held the same views, did the same things. BORING!
I believe the best writing is the boldest writing. Words hold power. And the ability of well placed words to spark debate, comfort grief, create joy, and induce fear, while triggering a host of human emotions, has taught me to treat them with tremendous respect. And part of that respect is believing in what I’m writing and ensuring that I have only the best of intentions.
So I’m here to tell you that if you choose to write, write from your heart. As long as you’re being true to yourself and you’re not out to intentionally offend or hurt anyone, you’re good.
Worrying about judgment or trying to please a certain audience will only result in frustration. So go ahead and write what sets your soul on fire!