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Challenge Authority

February 7, 2013

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, women face a number of challenges when they move from the academic world to the world of work. Chief among them is the reluctance to challenge authority. According to the article, many women do well in school because they build strategies around what the authors call “good girl” questions, like “What does the boss want?”, “Which of the boss’s needs aren’t being met?”, and “What do I need to do to get an A?”

Some men get tripped up by the same things, but that’s not the point of this particular blog post. The article says women need to learn how to challenge and influence authority, rather than simply pleasing it.

The same advice should ring true for writers. Successful writing contains passion, and you can only write with passion when you actually have passion. And many times passion only comes when you take a stand on something that means something to you, and something that others might not agree on. It’s easy to take a stand when everyone agrees with it. It’s when you aren’t sure–when you take a chance–that you might find your writing magically good.

If you can write well, and you write something that challenges the traditional ways of seeing things, people might get angry at you. They might unfriend you on Facebook and tell their friends what a massive pain in the butt you are. In fact, you can count on it. But you can also count on people coming back to your work and reading it again, and feeling challenged by it. And they will probably tell their friends how much you made them think.

It’s a risky thing, to be sure. Most of us were brought up to be polite and to avoid purposely making people feel uncomfortable. Success as a writer–and realizing your true potential as a writer may demand the courage to do exactly that.

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