by Maisie Smith on February 19, 2015
You don’t have to strap on a Kevlar vest and traipse notebook-first into an ISIS den to be a dangerous writer. Nor do you need to frantically scribble your thoughts while doing a free-fall from 12,000 feet. (That guy you’re strapped to… he pulls the ripcord. Right? Right?)
Dangerous writing is courageous writing. Courageous writing is simply expressing ideas in a way that makes people pay attention. Today’s world is full of people writing just for the sake of “putting something out there,” a mentality of I-will-squeeze-this-out-of-my-dried-up-brain-no-matter-what-even-if-it-means-I-write-yet-another-post-about-my-10-favorite-books-for-rocking-a-juicy-biz.
What is the point of writing, anyways? Merely to fill up space, to check a task off of a list?
Or is it to inspire, to educate, to share?
I’ve lined up five ways that you can ditch the boring and add more “danger” to your writing.
Not the “I was raised on Captain Crunch, Cheetos and love” story, but rather your Turning Point story. We all have one… or several… of those moments when a switch was flipped.
For me, it was losing my shit over 25 cents.
I was working for an ad agency and helping a client get ready for an upcoming trade show. Their budget was minuscule and their expectations gargantuan.
“We need the best pen money can buy for a quarter!”
Now, a quarter might get you a stale gumball out of that machine in the grocery store lobby. Or 10 minutes of downtown parking. But a quarter will not get you a pen that isn’t destined for the local landfill.
“How about a pen that people will actually use?” I retorted. They were adamant… “A quarter. No more.”
I searched. And I searched. And I searched. And finally found something in their price point that didn’t look like it had been sitting in the back of someone’s junk drawer for years.
“Hmmm… we don’t really like the shape. What else do you have?”
I closed their email with the mouse click heard around the world and sat at my desk, fuming. Angry tears pricked my eyes.
“Goddamn motherfucking quarter!” I shouted and threw the contents of my acrylic pen cup up into the air. The daily bustle of the ad agency came to a screeching halt as the pens clattered onto the floor. People were staring, unsure of what to say.
Silence banged between my ears like a game of pinball. And that’s when it hit me.
The 25 cent pen wasn’t the problem. It was that I was living a 25 cent life.
Reactive. A “yes” woman. Working for the weekend and measuring time in quarterly bonuses. Relegated to an ergonomic desk chair and a life of researching crappy pens.
The seed for Audacious Muse was planted that day.
And now, here we are, enjoying a blog post together.
I get so tired of hearing stories about how “I have always been an entrepreneur, ever since I opened my first lemonade stand when I was seven.” Yeah. I get it. You sold lemonade and walked the city’s dogs and started a cool-nerd t-shirt company in your parents’ garage and launched a tech startup for hipster executives riding skateboards to work and now you run a multi-million dollar conglomerate and hang out with Bill Murray on the weekend.
For the rest of us, the story may be a tad bit grittier. I’m talking ugly crying. Bad decisions that wipe out bank accounts and trust. Priceless inspiration from the dude who changes the oil in your car. Crippling self-doubt. Asshole bosses. Writing your business plan in a Sponge Bob spiral notebook. Unsupportive parents. Borrowing money from your kid’s piggy bank to buy milk. 3 a.m. breakthroughs. Seven Moleskine journals with most of the pages torn out stashed in a cardboard box in your garage.
Somewhere, in all of that, you became passionate about something.
Those gritty stories? They’re gold.
And we want to need to hear them.
Have an opinion. Write it in a way that lets people know exactly who you are… and who you aren’t. Draw your line and protect it.
Think that McDonalds’ new “lovin’” advertising campaign blows? Write about it!
Hate all of those inspirational memes clogging up your social media feeds? Write about it!
Wish that businesses weren’t all about chasing the almighty buck? Write about it!
Take a stand, even if it’s an unpopular one.
I know a thing or two about unpopular. We’ve been going steady since kindergarten. And you know what? Standing out because you do/write/say stuff that’s different than everyone else is exactly where you want your business to be.
I write to elicit a reaction. An “Oh, that’s nice” when someone reads your stuff is a punch to the gut. “Jesus… I can’t believe she said that.” Much better.
Newsflash, Walter Cronkite. You are not a cyborg. You are a human being.
This means that life isn’t always easy.
Ditch the can of Internet polish and leave the crappy filters at home, okay? Even if it’s just for today. You know what takes courage? Telling people that not everything is snugglebunnies and Skittles.
Or about something embarrassing that happened that made you want to dig a hole in the backyard with your own fingernails, load it up with canned green beans and live in it until… well… probably forever.
Rock your humanness. Like that time you were hired to sing at a wedding reception but forgot to arrange for an accompanist and decided to try singing The Carpenter’s “We’ve Only Just Begun” a cappella and massacring it so badly that your only option was to slink off of the stage 16 bars into the song and head straight to your 1979 Honda Accord waiting in the parking lot.
Or that time when you accidentally emailed a potential new client a spreadsheet with NET pricing on it.
We want to hear those stories, to share in those less-than-brilliant human moments. We feel your agony… because we’ve all been there. And like any good human, we want to know what you learned from it.
Perfection has a way of ruining everything. “It’s not good enough!” “I just need a few more sets of eyes.” And my favorite… “This is complete shit.” So you revise. And revise. And revise. Perfecting your stuff to death.
Get comfortable with “good enough.” The most dangerous thing you can do is hit that glorious send button.
See you in the danger zone!