How to be brave when you’re not

BeingBrave

Over the last few months I have been doing a lot of work on my writing. I have been talking with mentors and getting my words critiqued. And boy oh boy has it been … interesting.

The feedback from these people has been pretty universal.

“There’s nothing wrong with your writing Kelly. You form sentences nicely. You tell stories nicely. You wrap things up nicely. It’s all very … nice.
But it’s also all very safe.”

And when I think about it, there is a very good reason for this safeness. I am nothing if not the classic (Myers-Briggs personality type) INFJ:

“INFJs have a particularly low tolerance for conflict. They work to avoid unnecessary tension or confrontation, and are more likely than most types to take criticism personally. INFJs tend to spend a great deal of time preparing for and then reflecting on any negative interactions.”

Oh yes. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell. I will run a marathon to avoid conflict and confrontation. And I can reflect on negative interactions for days. Ok, weeks. And for the most part I can negotiate life pretty well despite all this (ie I know how to manage it!)

But as writer, it is very limiting. These words from a wise writer friend sums things up nicely:

“Writing has to be fearless. It HAS to. If it’s not fearless then it is bland and boring and won’t resonate with anyone. Better to resonate strongly with some than fall flat with everyone.”

Aargh – but I don’t do fearless! I am not fearless.

And my brain also says to me if you take the less safe route, if you are fearless, then you’re not really being ‘true to yourself’ are you?

Thankfully I have lovely advisers on hand to assure me this is bollocks.

Because regardless of how conflict averse my personality type is, strong views do occupy my head and there are a lot of things I am quite passionate about. I shouldn’t hold back on sharing my passionate views just because I don’t want to offend anyone. Mainly because people can (and will) choose to be offended by even the most vanilla things. Here’s my wise writer friend to the rescue again:

“There is not a single piece of writing in the world that everyone will like. There is not a single opinion in the world everyone will agree with. And that’s okay.”

So today at iVillage I have written a post that falls into that ‘brave’ category. And truth be told it kind of annoys me that this post should even be seen as ‘brave’. Why should it be brave to call society out on the fact that once a woman becomes a mother her thoughts and actions are judged by a single measure: ‘what about the kids’.

Going forward I shall have a lot more to say on that particular topic! Stay tuned ;)

Are you one of those brave, opinionated people I love and wish I could be more like? Or are you an Olympic level fence sitter like me?

Comments

  1. says

    Brilliant!!!! This post (and the one you so “bravely” wrote about on ivillage) really resonates with me. And i know you can’t please everyone but hey, it’s a good start :-) I have been reflecting on my writing recently and I realise that I too am fairly safe. In rare moments, I feel motivated to share my stronger views, but then I worry about offending someone, or readers just not “getting it”. It’s a frustrating process and I am finding it a hard balance to strike. I understand that not everyone will like everything I write, but I want them to, and I think i need to liberate myself from that “need”. And i LOVE the reference to your myers briggs personality type!!

    • says

      Thanks so much Michaela. It is definitely hard, but I think if there is something you are truly passionate about, and you’re willing to stand behind your opinion, and also back them up with facts … then the balance becomes easier!
      Oh and keep an eye out on the weekend – I will have the first post up in answer to one of your questions!

  2. says

    You were pretty brave weighing into the “write for free” debate! And you’re brave turning up every day to write on your blog and other public forums. Sticking your head above the parapet will always attract attention and criticism and many people would not even go there.

  3. says

    Well, the first step to being brave is admitting that you don’t always feel brave:)
    As for your writing, I’d say push for the limit. What’s the worst that can happen? Easier said than done but worth a try.

  4. says

    Not only am I an out and proud opinionator [and yup I just made that word up] but more often than not I’m an opinionator whose opinion is usually the one that goes against the grain, the black sheep amongst the white. I think not having an issue with conflict helps me to be a out & proud opinionator though :)

    I have no issue with putting it out there and I usually do but I do it respectfully or at least I try to and generally believe I do and that’s the important part there. Have an opinion, PLEASE have an opinion, debate your opinion with others freely BUT do it respectfully.

    As for writing, I think if your writing is always honest, real and raw, you can’t go wrong.

    • says

      Yes I totally agree. I love reading and hearing strong opinions, even (especially?!) when they differ to mine. So long as everyone can keep the discussion respectful it is all good!!

  5. says

    We are like the proverbial two peas when it comes to playing nice and avoiding conflict Kelly.
    However, I think you are brave Kelly. Very much so.
    (off to check out your kidspot post now!)

  6. Karen says

    So… an INFJ hey? ME TOO!!!!!!

    Actually, my “F” is very low, almost a “T” so I identify with INTJ as well. But I digress…

    I was nodding along in your first couple of sentences – I’ve abandoned my blog, mostly because I got busy, but also because I realised how Nice it was and that the Niceness is totally useless! I wrote one or two posts about topics I’m passionate about, and then I’d have my heart in my mouth all day in case of backlash. From whom, exactly, is a mystery.

    So I know EXACTLY how tough it is for you to write anything remotely controversial, but also how you believe in it with every fibre of your being! Love your integrity and bravery Kel! I’m off to read that post… xx

    • says

      Ha!! My T and F are also very borderline … I am more T in a work setting, more F in a ‘life’ setting :)

      But I know exactly what you mean about expecting backlash when expressing a strong opinion and having your heart in your mouth all day. I was totally like that with my ‘Writing for free’ post and today I have only just gone and quiveringly looked at my iVillage post!! But I do stand by everything I said in there and that helps :)

  7. says

    If you’re not standing on the edge, you’re taking up too much room. One of my writing teachers told me that last year, and it’s changed the way I approach my writing. If I feel or think something strongly, I absolutely have to write it out and let my worries sit on the bench. I’m not writing to be popular, I’m writing to reveal the truth or search for solutions or tell the world something it hasn’t heard before.
    I’m so proud of you for doing this Kelly, it will make you a stronger writer and a stronger person. Go YOU. x

  8. says

    Gah way too familiar with the ways of negative reflection :/

    Sometimes you just have to know what you are willing to fight for, for example I have never been a fence sitter about Australian music. If you feel strongly enough then damn the fence and those who disagree, not saying it won’t make you stop thinking it. Disagreeing won’t turn them, it will just make them think :)

    • says

      Ha it is so true. I am a fence sitter with a lot of things, but there are certainly things I am passionate about that I am more than willing to jump off the fence for!

  9. says

    Guilty as charged Kel! Am often told the same that I need to be more fearless in my approach. Let’s just hope I one day find the courage to do just that.

  10. says

    I don’t much like conflict and confrontation much either, which makes it tricky when you find you do have strong opinions about things! Some great advice in there Kelly :)

    • says

      It’s hard isn’t it?!! I have to admit I sometimes giggle when I read your posts Carli because I can read between the lines and I know what you’re trying to say, but I am also thinking ‘cmon Carli – let it ALL out!’

  11. says

    Yes and yes, Kelly. Loved this and the piece you wrote on iVillage. Being fearless is hard, I agree, but being able to say the things that people are thinking and are too afraid to say is indeed a great gift. x