Caution or Fearlessness? Bronwen Griffiths
On the whole I’m quite a cautious writer. I am afraid of causing offence. That doesn’t always extend to my other life. I have a tendency to lose my temper and shout both offline and online – not always a good trait I admit – but that’s who I am, for good or ill. Yet at the same time I can sometimes be overly apologetic and cautious. Women especially are brought up to be polite and consider others – an admirable trait unless someone is literally or metaphorically treading on your toes – but politeness and caution doesn’t always help us get places.
Elfrika Deposit Photos
What about caution and fearlessness in our writing lives? I’ve written before about how fear can hold us back in our creative work. We fear we are not good enough, we fear to submit our writing to journals or publishers because rejection and criticism are hard to take. We fear to take risks with our writing, perhaps keeping to the same old paths. If you are going to be a published writer, or if you attend writing classes, you will need to learn to overcome this fear. But what of the actual process of writing – is there ever a need for caution
If you are going to write about something difficult you need to be brave. In writing about something like sexual assault, for example, caution is not your friend. If you are going to do something experimental and news, caution is again not your friend. But…
When Googling articles for this piece most pieces I found were about how to overcome your fears, how to be brave, how fear can hold up your creativity. There is much truth in this but caution (I won’t name it fear as I think that’s too strong a word) can be useful especially when it means taking the time to process and edit our work.
In one of the few articles discussing caution (Tanner Christensen, October 2015) Christensen talks about how fear and caution is necessary in everyday life to stop us jumping off buildings, or behaving recklessly, but that caution is also necessary in the incubation part of creation. We need to trust the incubation process. Maybe we aren’t always quite ready to commit to paper and should allow time to think and daydream and perhaps just take notes. Trust the incubation process. Allow time. But again we must also instinctively trust when it is necessary to dive straight in.
When I need to write a difficult e-mail I will leave it a day or two before returning to it and then sending it out. I may be so angry and upset when I first write it that I’m not thinking straight. Sometimes I will also tweet something angrily and I often regret that. I haven’t allowed myself time to process and think.
Little My by Tove Jansson
When it comes to our creative work caution can be our friend. I’m sure we have all sent off work that isn’t quite ready. When it is rejected (and of course work isn’t always rejected for that reason) we realise that we have not been cautious enough - the work still needs further editing. The editing process is mixture of throwing caution to the winds and treading carefully. That may sound like a contradiction but it isn’t really.
Perhaps you are the fearless type in your writing and maybe you need to exercise a little more caution at times. Or perhaps you are the cautious type and need to take a deep breath and jump. There’s no right or wrong way. It’s a matter of knowing yourself and acting accordingly – when to jump and when to hold back.
Bronwen is the author of two novels and two collections of flash fiction. Her flash fiction pieces have been published in the Bath Flash Anthology, Barren Magazine, FlashBack Fiction, Lunate Fiction, Spelk, among others.
Bronwen tweets @bronwengwriter – she is working on her
incautious tweets but sometimes feels the need to rant