Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Do You Hide Behind What You Write?

Kay Garston “Hide Behind Truth”
Or do the words you choose to put on the page reflect the real you? I asked myself this question recently while I was reflecting on how many of us blog, tweet, write, and otherwise seek ways to be heard by the world. It’s a pretty noisy place out there where finding a voice can be difficult. The temptation, then, is to write wildly, into the extreme margins of life, where we can get attention because we’re so far “out there.” Or, on the flip side, we might write conservatively to the “largest common denominator” of an audience, because we’re afraid that real and deep honesty might alienate people. In either case, words become a shield that separate our true selves from the people we are trying to reach. That’s ironic and tragic.

It’s easy enough to put up a false front when we’re face to face with another person. How much easier it is in this techno-savvy era when we can be more verbose than ever while being more physically isolated than ever.  
I’m not trying to draw any conclusions or make any accusations with these thoughts. I’m merely sharing a question that I’ve found difficult to answer personally as a novelist. I want to be “real” without being offensive, but it’s not always possible to be both. Sometimes speaking the truth takes the courage to kick people in the pants; whether listeners will be offended is irrelevant. So these values I hold as a writer live in imperfect tension. But if I ever stop being aware of that tension, I think my words will lose their integrity.

How do you hold onto integrity when you write?


Jennifer K. Hale said...

Erin- what a great question; one that I've pondered as well. There have been several times when I'm blogging and I've changed a phrase or my point entirely, afraid of what my readers might think if I left in my blunt, sassy remark, or my point that might push a few buttons. I don't want to push readers away. I don't want to be offensive. But am I afraid of being myself? How much of myself is appropriate? I'm sassy a lot of the time. I don't have patience with stupidity. But when I'm trying to connect with a wider audience, I find myself toning things down out of fear. I guess I'll have to keep blogging and see how it works out. How do you balance your best voice v. the public persona?

Erin Healy said...

Jennifer, there are no easy answers. Even "balance" is likely overrated and not always best. It helps me to examine my motives behind my choices. If I choose certain words out of fear or pride, they'll probably be ineffective and maybe even harmful. But if I'm motivated by love or hope, I think my words stand a better chance of doing their job (to inspire, challenge, encourage, and so on). We ought to choose our words carefully, no matter the goal.

J. S. Bailey said...

I tend to write the things that I feel and think about. Sometimes people take offense because they disagree with me and find my thoughts and feelings offensive (for example, I am very pro-life, and even though I engage in civil conversations with those who disagree with me, things can still get ugly.) I cannot help that. I am not a people-pleaser and I do not shy away from speaking my mind (in a civil manner, of course) in my writings. The trick is to word things in such a way that does not come across as being inflammatory, because inflammatory words will only alienate people. As a writer, I cannot allow that to happen!