Why You Need To Risk Writing Something Dangerous (Excerpt from “Writer’s Doubt”)
Everyone has a story to tell, including you.
The dangerous part of writing and sharing our stories isn’t always the writing itself or even the story, it’s more about how it may affect others, and how they might react to it. It’s dangerous, because honesty always is.
People react to honesty in various ways depending on where they are in their lives and what their experiences and worldviews may be.
You can’t control how others view things, and you shouldn’t try to, but perhaps more importantly:
Don’t let others stop you from telling your story. (Tweet This)
Everyone interprets things differently. And, unfortunately, this stops too many of us from telling our stories, or honestly writing about what we believe.
When I wrote my first book, my childhood memoir, I knew I was voicing issues that others might want to keep secret, issues that even to a degree were blamed on me – hey, I even blamed myself. It was painful to write; shame that had plagued me for years was pouring onto the page, but I wrote it. What I learned is:
You need to tell your story, even if it is just for you. (Tweet This)
There were other concerns I had when I finally decided to publish. There would be those who would call me names, tell me the story is a ranting pity party, and some who would threaten me with physical harm, even death threats.
And yet, I published it.
Did my fears come true? Unfortunately, yes, some of them did.
And that’s important to acknowledge, because too often we’re told not to worry, most of your fears are just your imagination going wild.
Even though some of your fears might seem a little irrational, you still have to come to terms and accept them. We’d like to believe everyone will support and encourage us, but there are those who will tear you down and try to hurt you.
Perhaps you fear 1 star reviews on Amazon?
You will get them.
There’s nothing wrong with your work not resonating with some people. The problem comes when you try to appease those few and change your writing, or write less interesting stuff.
Here’s a quote to consider from Seth Godin about 1 star reviews:
I’ve never once met an author who said, “Well, my writing wasn’t resonating, but then I read all the 1 star reviews on Amazon, took their criticism to heart and now I’m doing great…”
–Seth Godin bestselling author of “The Icarus Deception”
The reality is most harsh criticism comes from those who have never put themselves out there. It’s always easier for someone who has never taken the risk themselves to tell you what you are doing wrong, or what you should have said.
That doesn’t mean input about your work isn’t helpful, but harsh criticism doesn’t come from a place of concern with the goal to be helpful.
The bottom line is, you are going to rub some people the wrong way, and figuring out why and how to avoid it isn’t going to do you any good.
Of course, we all should have filters in place to insure we are respectful and lawful, but doing so doesn’t make it any easier.
Ultimately, you have to take the leap and write. (Tweet This)
That’s what I did with “One Boy’s Struggle”, and even though some of my fears came true, my memoir has gone on to help thousands. It is a story that needed to be told.
The story mattered so much that the most well known professional in the field said this about it:
“It’s a real eye—opener! Bryan writes of hope and despair, and the all-too-common conflict between desperately wanting to achieve and please, yet suspecting that you’ll fail again… and soon.”
–Dr. Edward Hallowell, bestselling author of “Driven to Distraction”
What I want to emphasize is that if we hold our stories inside of ourselves due to our fears alone, we miss the opportunities telling our story may provide, such as saying what needed to be said, helping others, reaching people who you never thought you could reach, and knowing what you are writing is important, and if for no one else, it is important to you.
I took the leap again when I wrote my new book “Happy Every Day”.
Writing “Happy Every Day” was not nearly as dangerous as writing “One Boy’s Struggle”. The biggest difference was that I knew I would publish it before I wrote it and I would not go into revealing details about myself and my past as I did in my memoir.
I didn’t want to rewrite my memoir, because that would be too painful. Instead I wanted to take the lessons I learned throughout my life and break them down into the simplest, easiest strategies as possible for creating happiness in one’s life on a daily basis.
The lessons for happiness were extremely difficult for me to learn, mainly because of my stubbornness and impatience. I had read a great many books about happiness (more than I care to admit), and the problem, at least for me, was that they spent too much time explaining what happiness is, and the processes outlined for achieving it were overcomplicated.
If the book you want doesn’t exist, then write it. (Tweet This)
The books I read were good books and helped in the long run; however, I would have liked a book that took a simpler approach, and that’s one of the reasons why I wrote “Happy Every Day”.
Although writing about happiness would seem harmless, it’s not.
“Happy Every Day” is an opinion piece and created from life-lessons, which opens it up to disagreements, and since happiness is highly subjective I knew I would touch nerves. I had already been on the receiving end of bullies and negative influencers all of my life, and therefore, I included my suggestions on how to deal with them as well.
Bullies and negative influencers who read the book may well recognize themselves within my words, even though that was not my intention. I’d love to think they would change from reading it, but lashing out is more their style, otherwise they wouldn’t be bullies in the first place.
Still, I believe being “Happy” is possible even for negative influencers, and if they want to call me names for writing such a suggestion, then it’s a risk I needed to take.
As a highly subjective topic, I also knew that others would read into it stuff which wasn’t there, such as ignoring harsh realities, even though I clearly state we shouldn’t ignore the negatives, but we shouldn’t ignore the good things either.
Then there are people who believe being happy simply isn’t possible, or haven’t yet found a way to find happiness, and they’ll challenge the book by calling the ideas unachievable or even, outright wrong.
And you know what? That’s okay, because I believe those who challenge the strategies may also try some of them, and who knows, wouldn’t it be great if they find a few that work for them?
It is never my intention to write anything controversial, but when you’re honest, controversy is often a byproduct.
“Happy Every Day” simply provides strategies that I believe can help people find happiness in the common every day things and situations we all too often overlook. That’s it. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Was it worth the risk?
That’s a fair question, but it’s a question that needs to be answered before writing.
The answer was and is, YES! For those who like to measure results, to date “Happy Every Day” has over 100 reviews on Amazon, the most any of my books has received.
Honesty is dangerous.
When you tell your story honestly, even if it is only to provide the lessons you have learned, it’s dangerous because it is personal and each person reads into it with their own experiences and beliefs.
And it’s important to know that just because some people may disagree with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are right or wrong, just that they see things differently. Their opinions are just as valid in their own right as yours or mine.
With all this said, if you want to write your story honestly, you’ll come to a point of making a decision, because no matter how harmless it seems to you, you will write something dangerous.
Write it anyway. That’s what writers do.
The thing to come to terms with is:
Are you going to write your story or let others stop you? Share in the comments.
PS: Sometimes, the “others” is really ourselves.