THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Recently, Susan, an old friend of Gwen the Beautiful’s called her about something I’d written in this space.
“Wow,” she said. “Larry’s really taking a chance here. He’s being so honest about himself. Doesn’t that scare him?”
When Gwen told me about this all I could do was shake my head.
“‘Taking a chance’ by writing about what I think and feel?” I said. “What kind of chance? What’s she talking about?”
Gwen smiled. “Well, it’s kind of a risk, don’t you think? Letting people know who you really are?”
“But that’s what writers do.”
“Do they?” Gwen said. “When you were writing television, did you write about yourself? Did you express your real thoughts and feelings? Didn’t you say to me—more than once—that you thought the reason places like NBC and CBS and ABC paid so much more than book and magazine publishers and stageplay producers was because they were trying to make up for making writers spend so much time making up lies?”
Well, of course Gwen was right.
I’ve harangued more than my share of listeners with complaints about how in TV and film writers are nothing but glorified stenographers, writing what the executives tell them to, instead of creating their own unique visions of the world.
And, yes, when I started writing books and columns and blogs the first thing I celebrated was the freedom to not only express myself the way I wanted, but to reveal my inner being as well.
Because I figure it’s the job of every writer—every artist actually—to present the world as he or she sees it so that the audience can enjoy and understand more about life by experiencing it from someone else’s point of view. A kind of “walk a mile in my shows” kind of thing.
Let me repeat that: I celebrated it.
Never thought—not once!—to be afraid.
But Susan’s not the only one who’s pointed out to me that self-expression is inherently dangerous. I get a lot of e-mail from positive readers who comment on how amazed they are at the flak they see me taking from negative readers.
And there’s the matter of those negative types themselves. I never know when one is going to strike, with an e-mail or a blog comment or a forum post that lets me know what a sorry, stupid, crazy, imperceptive, untalented excuse for a specimen of humanity I am.
If I had any worries about my ego getting out of hand, hey, no way.
Years ago, I had a dream. In it I was having a conversation in which I was trying desperately to figure out what the other person wanted to hear so I could say it to him.
I awoke in a panic, realizing that for most of my life I’d been doing just that with most people. Because I wanted something from them. Sometimes I wanted a job, sometimes a favor. Sometimes I wanted them to stop hurting me. And sometimes I just plain wanted them to like me.
I figured that by saying what they wanted to hear—by in effect becoming who they wanted me to be—I’d achieve my goal.
And most of the time I did. But what a cost! I paid for what I got by losing…me.
So what really is the risk here when I write what comes directly from my heart? That someone won’t like what I’m saying and therefore won’t like me? That I’ll be cut out of the herd for revealing for not agreeing with the majority, or that I’m different somehow?
Will they take away everything I own? Draw and quarter me?
Probably not. And if they do, I’ll still have the most precious gift life gives us.
I’ll still have my soul.
The way I see it, real honesty starts with the way we view ourselves. Does being honest with and about ourselves really make people vulnerable? In my experience, it makes us stronger instead. Honesty leads to acceptance, and once we’ve accepted ourselves we can love ourselves.
And once we love ourselves, what can it matter what anyone else thinks, says, or does?
Unless that someone else is a reader of these words. Because here’s more honesty from Larry B:
Every time I write something it’s like opening a vein. I can’t always practice what I preach. My life’s blood and my soul are in your hands.
Be gentle, okay?