The sports world is buzzing lately with the news of the first openly gay football player — Michael Sam — being drafted into the NFL.
Whatever your opinion on the matter, whether you are for or against this young man, it should be acknowledged that Sam has demonstrated immense courage in standing before the world and making such a personal aspect of his life so public, especially with so much at stake in his professional life.
He will be judged. There is little doubt he will be judged harshly by some and praised by others.
On a smaller scale, writers must demonstrate this same kind of courage.
When I first took up the pen and began to write professionally, I was so thrilled to have my first article published that it remains framed in my office to this day.
But it didn’t take long for me to realize that every single piece I wrote and published had something personal of me in it. As a private citizen, was I really prepared to have my words, my soul splashed across the glossy pages of some magazine, nestled among ads for dentistry and bouncy houses?
Initially, I don’t know that I was. I fussed. I deleted. Sometimes, I refused to tackle a subject when it felt as though I was revealing too much of myself.
I soon learned to steel myself against the judgements of my editors and readers. But there are still some days when I find myself backspacing over a line or a paragraph that feels too close.
Of course, I know that when I write “real,” when I relax and breathe and allow myself to share with you all what I know and feel and fear, I think I write some of my best stuff.
Are you an authentic writer? Are you OK with seeing yourself reflected back to you through your words — for the world to see? Are you willing to go out on a limb with your writing, without fear of repercussions?
And if you aren’t, consider the following exercise for learning how to open up: choose a controversial topic on which to write. It may center on the Michael Sam story or a similar hot topic.
Take 5-10 minutes to journal your true feelings on the matter. Care nothing for grammar or punctuation. And whatever you do, resist the urge to edit yourself. Simply write. Let every emotion course through your fingertips and onto the pen, pouring out your soul onto the page.
Practice this style of writing whenever possible, as it will put you into a frame of mind that open and free-flowing.
Similarly, be open to sharing what you’ve written with a fellow writer. Listen to his feedback, for good and for bad.
And finally, take a stand. Be bold and courageous.
Kerri S. Mabee