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Why You Should Wash Your Dirty Linen In Public

Why You Should Wash Your Dirty Linen In Public

Not long ago, someone messaged me, “Hey Abdullahi, I love what you do and would like to start a blog and write a book too. But I haven’t won writing prizes or made consistent income. How will I convince people I’m an expert?”

And I was like, why should you pretend or convince anyone you’re an expert?

Writing and blogging isn’t about being an expert. It’s about being real… being vulnerable and embracing who you are, rather than being obsessed with who you think you should be.

Play safe. Or not?

You’ve probably heard the advice before: “Don’t wash your dirty linen in public.”

Be human

Photo Credit: barskla2 via Compfight cc

What if it’s not valuable advice in the life of an artist? What if you need to open up to people, admit you have flaws (many of them) and make peace with your limitations?

Readers want to read and connect with real people, not machines or robots. And real people –without a single exception – don’t have perfect lives. They have frustrations, failures, fears and addictions.

They have broken lives, even if they’re very successful.

Feigning perfection creates distrust

I don’t know about you but I don’t trust Jet Li.

You know why? He’s superhuman. He beats all his adversaries like they’re toys. He rarely sustains injury. He isn’t real.

If you’ve read Romeo and Juliet, I suspect you like the love birds. Why? Because they had broken lives, had fears, flaws and addictions – like all authentic human beings.

If you’ve seen the movie, 3 Idiots, I bet you love the three friends, especially Rancho. Because they are real humans with real problems.

And maybe you don’t trust Virus, the haughty, know-it-all, always-right Director of the Imperial College of Engineering. I know I don’t.

So as a writer who wants to connect with and build trust with readers, you must stop feigning to be a superhero. You must stop carrying yourself like you know it all or you have a perfect life. That’s how not to create a disconnect with your audience.

For instance, if you’re born into poverty, you don’t want Dangote’s son (who’s never trekked, never drank garri) to show you the way out. He’s never been in your shoes.

So if you feign perfection as a writer, your readers won’t trust your advice because you don’t appreciate what it means to have human challenges like mistakes, fears, frustrations and failure.

Chameleons feign colour. Humans don’t

Recently, I had a conversation with a blogger selling an ebook on how to make N150,000 monthly. He complained to me of his financial woes and requested I teach him how I make money blogging. I asked him how much he currently makes monthly and his response shocked me:

“I don’t make money o. In fact, less than N5,000 monthly.”

I entreated him to stop threading the perilous path of selling lies. He promised to stop and from what I’ve seen of him since, he did.

How does this relate to you?

If you’re a writing coach like me, when you enter a contest and fail, say so — like I did here.

If your blog has less than 500 subscribers, don’t claim you have thousands. If you haven’t won prizes, don’t lie you have. If you don’t get 300 daily page views, don’t say you do. If you haven’t cultivated the discipline to write daily, admit it, even if you’re encouraging others to start writing daily.

When you screw up – maybe you gave incorrect information, took a wrong decision (like I recently did about stopping essay contest postings) or failed on a promise (like I did when I postponed the announcement of my essay contest winners from June to July) – don’t blame it on someone else. Admit it, apologize and move on.

Be you, not anyone else

If you’re just starting out, don’t claim expertise. You don’t need it. Just writing about and sharing what you know and are learning is usually enough.

Don’t feign to be perfect. No one expects you to be. Neither do we expect you to invent frustrations or flaws you don’t have. We just want you to be real.

Respect your readers but don’t go all out to impress them. Admit your fears and failures but don’t invent any.

If you want to connect with human beings, be one first. If you want your ideas to resonate with your readers, be real.

Embrace your failings. Everyone has them.

Question: Do you feign perfection when you write? How does it affect your writing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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-- Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji | Fulbright scholar | Senior Lecturer, Unilorin | newspaper columnist

About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.

Comments

  1. Perfect piece. Those who show their warts and hemorrhoids (mind you, these are hard to show) are the ones that connect with the people most. To connect is to be human. Thank you for sharing your art, Abdullahi.

  2. Aminu Yusuf Malam says:

    Nice work, Abdullahi.

  3. Nice advice! coz’ many Nigerian writers want to start professional perfect writing from the very ist day, in the process thrashing out some contemporary stil relevant issues.
    but the one about Jet Li, dont you think its just fictional?

  4. dr.vandana says:

    hi,,tosin!!! I am not agree with you that any one else knows yourself better than you. I am not a perfectionist but I like to be, its personal, no one has to do nothing with that..may I fail or pass.whether anyone reads or not ,I am not writing to just to be read by others only. No one is perfect..indeed, why Rancho not Virus….after all at least we are not Ranchhod das Chachad……!!!!!

    • I wish I understand your point, Vandana. My point isn’t about perfectionism, which is another terrible thing entirely.

      Mine is a clarion call to fellow writers to stop feigning as superheroes and embrace (and admit) their human limitations.

    • Munachi says:

      Please doc. always endeavour to make people get what you say. Don’t get me wrongoooo. #justthinkingaloud#

  5. I do agree completely. Many bloggers weigh themselves down with trying to come off as perfect in their readers’ eyes. It’s a huge weight to carry really.

    Nobody is perfect, and no matter how much we know there’s always so much to learn. There’s no crime in learning whilst trying to accomplish a task, and helping others learn from our mistakes.

    Truth is, nobody resonates with a perfect human. And we can only play perfection for so long before we’re fished out.

    Nice article man.

    • Thanks Eyo,

      Many bloggers weigh themselves down with trying to come off as perfect in their readers’ eyes. It’s a huge weight to carry really.

      How sad! No one should punish himself into carrying that unnecessary burden.

  6. Abubakar says:

    Absolutely agree with you, Coach .Sincerity always guarantees victory. Failure for one to show his true color, he fails himself virtually in everything. What he loses? He loses Integrity. If he is in the task of helping others and being viewed as a role model, he then jettisons his luck, he betrays the confidence others have in him.Nice piece!

  7. Munachi says:

    This is about the most clear truth you could ever get. We all should be glad Tosin has said it. Be who you are. claim not perfection for it makes one a candid liar. To all writers out there I love you all, because as writers it is our duty to change the world through written words. #beyou

  8. You know, this is just like drawing a line and trying to separate reality from delusion.

    The difference between a truthful blogger and one that lies is their understanding of one thing. And that is; making money or becoming successful online is about building trust and satisfying readers.

    The obsession of only making money not only pushes these people to lie, it makes them steal (real plagiarism) and spam too.

    We can only beg God on their behalf to let truth be meaningful to them so they don’t spoil our art for us because of their greed and impatience.

  9. Dunni Adenuga says:

    I do not feign perfection when I write, but my quest for perfection has held me back from really progressing with my writing; and it has been the biggest barrier to the birthing of my long-dreamed-of-blog. Thanks a lot for this, Mr Tosin.

    • Dunni, good to have you here. Aptly put, people don’t achieve perfection by waiting behind. Writing is a journey and your destination is where you’ve mastered the art of writing. You shouldn’t say you’re being held back because you think you are not perfect because it is continuous writing that makes you achieve this feat

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