Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Assertive Art

"'...Positive assertiveness is the courage needed to express a disconnect with a ‘different point of view’ or with another person’s style of engagement. It is the capacity to not say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’ or ‘maybe’; it is the willingness to put forth a radical, unconventional idea without the fear of ridicule...'"

This quote comes from an article in the India-based Economic Times about appropriate assertiveness in the workplace. The piece points out that such behavior helps the individual's self-esteem and creates a better environment for innovative ideas.

India is one of the last places such philosophy might be expected to come from. I'd read--and I saw when I lived in Varanasi researching Sister India--that Indian business and government tend to be ferociously hierarchical. Protocols, procedures, and chain-of -command rule.

At the other end of the spectrum, American artists are about as free as people ever are. And yet so many of us do struggle with uneasy shifting fears about our work. That it won't be accepted. That someone will hate it/us. That it's stupid. Etc.

I once heard actor/director/ screenwriter/musician Billy Bob Thornton say in a TV interview that he was going to be crucified when his new project came out. What I believe he meant was that he expected to get a lot of criticism.

Criticism and crucifixion are two different things.

That being the case, I feel I have no excuse for not fully expressing myself in my writing. Nobody is going to crucify me. And if Indian employees can stand up to their bureaucracies, surely I can tap out honest words in the privacy of my little office.

The worst that can happen is that nobody buys the piece. And I'll bet more books have failed out of the writer holding back--consciously or unconsciously--than have ever failed out of courage.

BTW, fear doesn't seem to have held Billy Bob back.

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