For the writer, one of the greatest tools in Resistance’s toolbox is reticence, and its perpetual challenge to one’s vulnerability.
Reticence is a fantastic tool for Resistance because it keeps the writer perpetually self-monitoring and questioning their work- and in many cases, by highlighting where a particular admission or proclamation or illustration might open the author up to criticism, reticence is effective in keeping a writer from touching on some broad and important topics altogether. Reticence is often behind those times when we deem a story idea or poetic execution or personal vignette as boring or flat or dross. It’s either because by reticence we craft our works in super-edit mode, leaving out the raw or tawdry or unflattering details, resulting in a super sterile, white-packaged generic product, or because of reticence we see something in what we’ve written that makes us personally uncomfortable and makes the effort trash-worthy.
Our pretension towards perfection may actually be an avoidance of awkwardness.
And yet, it is well known that in the transmission of our foibles and our failings and our unflattering experiences- in the sharing of our vulnerabilities, and how we deal with them- we humanize our stories, and make them fan friendly. We may be respected for our impeccable grammar and syntax, but we are loved for our availability and openness in sharing about how we deal with life.
Because, after all, no one interesting passes through life unscathed and unchallenged.
Resistance knows this, though, and so it works within you as a writer, whispering to you that the things you might really want to write about should be left alone- because by addressing them, your parents might discover you aren’t the child they thought they raised, or your siblings might be troubled by your disclosures. Your boss might discover your opinions and change his or hers of you as a result. You might make your church friends uncomfortable. You might make your political friends uncomfortable. You might make some people who thought they loved you realize they don’t really like you so much. You might lose friends on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. You might suffer a wave of “Unsubscribes” to your blog.
You might, or we should probably just say, you will make yourself uncomfortable.
You might be criticized as a result of your words. You might be ridiculed. You might be targeted and bullied. Or you might be ignored.
Reticence, in a positive way, keeps our vulnerabilities under wrap, most often to protect our ego, but by extension, to also protect our relationships, our reputation (that we have worked hard to cultivate), our interests, and our income. To say what you really want to say, to talk about things that make others uncomfortable, is not always an invitation for promotion and affirmation. Venturing into the realm of vulnerabilities is an opportunity to take a square look at one’s life, and also at the nature and issues and problems related to being human in a modern world. But the locale of any vulnerability is always a potentially discomforting place, because human vulnerabilities are portals for both deep pleasure and deep pain. And Resistance, through reticence, says “Maybe it is best you don’t go there”, even if by going there you might crack the door in a long sealed-up cell, and let light into the dark dungeon of your, or someone else’s, life. “You may also seal it up tighter”, Resistance tells us.
At some point, you must decide in your writing, on some close held subject, to quit skirting the edges.
To quit employing euphemisms.
To accept that for your words to have life, they must be free to kick and goad, to leap and run, to yelp and to holler. They must be free to be fully yours. And fully their own, given to whatever that sensitive subject is.
And you must allow yourself to finally say them.
Love is not love because it is perpetually nice.
The dentist does us no favors by holding our hand and saying soothing sentences while that molar rots and roils in the back of our mouth. Her kindness lies in hitting pain with pain to remove a long-term persistent problem from our life. We accept temporary discomfort because we understand by experiencing pre-existing pain, the unpleasant dental drill works to return to us healing and health.
Reticence says “If you write that, you might suffer from it as a result.”
Where the truth is probably more like, by writing that, you might change someone else’s opinion of ou in some way- and you may suffer something from it as a result- but you will also let the fresh air in to your thinking, and give yourself a swig of courage, and discover new allies and new energy for your writing.
You will find new grounding for your words.
And you will probably make a few friends, or deepen a few friendships, as a result of your vulnerability.
Vulnerability helps people to connect with you and your ideas because, by forging into topics that are less popular, or less simple, or less clean, to wrestle with, your thoughts have a better propensity to move others emotionally- either positively or negatively- and we remember stories that move us. Awkward ideas and anecdotes that we read provide us with opportunities to assess how we would act in a certain setting, or provoke us to reason out how we think about topics we might not otherwise consider.
So when you are struggling to write, and you feel Resistance in the room, siphoning off your ideas into the virtual landfill in your brain, ask yourself if there is something you want to write about but that you are anxious to. See if your block is related to avoiding a topic that makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious. Vulnerable.
Reticence is a powerful tool in Resistance’s tool box.
Identify who it is you are afraid of offending or upsetting or alienating by your writing. Use the moment as a chance to talk to them in person about the topic. Gain some insights, some support, and some courage, and then write through your worries.
But value your vulnerabilities. They empower your writing.