Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beyond the Comfort Zone

Proceed with caution: you are about to leave the comfort zone.
Some of the images and ideas may repel, disturb, and annoy, just as some art, fiction, and sculpture can evoke strong, even repellent, feelings in those who view it.

If you're a writer, you fret endlessly over words.
Bloggers pay close attention to the tone of each post. You don't want to offend anyone, don't want to bore or bother anyone. You don't want your words or images to be misinterpreted.
Maybe you hold back and paint vanilla-scented words.

Nothing wrong with that--vanilla is a universal scent.
However, it isn't universally loved. One in a thousand readers will be allergic to vanilla beans and a larger percentage will find the smell boring. They may even leave a bitter comment.
Are you afraid of the bitter?
Are you watching what you write or do you take bold steps?
Words can be disturbing to you, the creator, and your first reaction will be to wipe your feet and get rid of the sticky mess.


Messes arouse the ick factor.

Words have gravity. If they spill, you can't control where they go.

The artist understands the physics of words.
Bald, rude words can be funny or appalling--to the writer and the reader.

Or the artist can be subtle, and a rude gesture may or may not look rude.
You might not find it unless you're looking. Or it could be something that builds--like music.

Words can be comical on the surface but underneath, they can be filled with subtext.

An artist knows she's done her job when her work evokes strong reactions, good and bad.

Seasoned artists aren't swayed by either reaction.

Because once a post (novel, painting, or sculpture) has left the building, so to speak, it's not yours anymore. You can't tell people how they should interpret your ideas.
(As for the Internet, you can edit a post, but your original words are somewhat radioactive and will live on and on and on.)
Many bloggers moderate their comments because they don't want negativity to leave a stink--and words do have a lingering smell. Who wants to deal with Viagra spammers clogging your comment section or the occasional heckler?
Your blog is a virtual home for friends. You want the visits to be delightful, right?
Seriously, no one likes chewing gum on their shoe.

But what does this have to do with you and your words?
If you've read this far, maybe you're thinking about writing a book. But each time you try, your inner critic gives you the finger.
What then?
If you're writing a poem or painting a fresco, you need to stop moderating your own negativity.
Of course, you can play it safe.

But the good stuff happens when we take risks.
Three rules:
Don't be too hard on yourself.
Don't write for applause.
Don't look down. 

Assignment: Defy gravity.