Give It All

Due to an ongoing Internet issue, I’ve been dealing with a lot of customer service representatives lately. My strategy with these people is to be as nice as possible, to treat them like new friends who would love nothing more than to do everything in their power to help me. Once upon a time it was more important that the person trying to help me thought I was nice than they actually helped me. Their theoretical opinion of me was like a wall that stood between me and all the nasty, impatient things I was often thinking. That wall seems to have disappeared. In this way, my niceness is a choice, which is actually the nicest way to be nice – assuming, of course, I am actually as nice as I think I am. Yet this wall’s absence reminds me of how people over forty-five tend to speak their minds no matter what anyone thinks of what they have to say, a tendency that only increases the older we get. As my mother-in-law recently explained, “I held my tongue for all those years. Now I don’t give a damn who I offend.”

Which is why, I believe, writing is so often a middle-aged profession. It is much easier to write honestly if you don’t give a damn who you offend. I don’t think there’s any value in trying to offend, but not trying not to offend will quickly paint you into a very boring corner. In fact, it is much easier to write if you don’t care what anyone thinks of anything you have to say, because no matter what you say you are guaranteed that everyone will think everything given the chance.

Still, I try to write stories that are kind, patient and generous because that is always how the truth has felt to me. It took me years to work up the courage write stories like this. I was worried people would think I was unsophisticated. Somewhere someone probably thinks exactly that, but this seems like a very small price to pay. To offer half the truth you know is to offer no truth at all. Instead, give to the world all that you know to be true so that the world might know the truth that is you.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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