Careful is dull. Careful is insipid. We don’t listen to or feel inspired by or follow careful people. Maybe we don’t even like them.
President Obama can tell you about being too careful. In the first presidential debate, he played it cool. He was really really careful. He was so careful that he sat with his head down and took careful notes so he wouldn’t forget anything. Mitt Romney wasn’t careful. He was almost jumping out of his skin, he was so anxious to put his foot in it. Sure, Romney said some things he probably regretted but at least he said something.
As an editor, I had to teach myself to listen to that small voice in the back of my head that says things like “slow down” or “is this really true?” or “go over it again” or “what will people think?”. But as a writer, I have to kill it. Periodically, I smash it and send it to hell but it keeps coming back.
I’m trying to learn to “throw caution to the wind.” I love that phrase because it paints a perfect word picture. You reach inside and ferret out all that is holding you back and toss it into the wind and let it blow away. Dictionary writers define the phrase as being reckless but there is definitely an upside to throwing caution to the wind.
Some of the most un-careful writers of all time were honored last week at the Austin Public Library’s Banned Books Bash. Such notables as Sara Hickman, Jake Silverstein and Amy Cook read excerpts from many of the most careless, incautious, subversive and offensive books of all time. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which was actually banned by our government; Ulysses, that wonderful Irish passion eruption by James Joyce; To Kill A Mockingbird, a banned book that was once subversive but is now read in public schools.
The emcee was Owen Egerton, who himself is an outrageous storyteller and the author of The Book of Harold, a religious satire. He bemoaned the fact that all of the banned books on the event’s list were at least twenty years old. He urged everyone present to write some books worth banning. “Let’s get out there and offend the next generation,” he said. He wasn’t joking.
That oppressive yoke of conformity is so heavy to carry around and yet so hard to take off.