Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Forbidden Themes and Ideas

Most of us censor ourselves far more than any authority censors us. Forget government censorship or political censorship. The real censors are in our own heads.

What ideas are you afraid to tackle? What subjects are you uneasy discussing for fear of offending some reader, or for fear of embarrassing yourself by taking on an unpopular position?

At my food blog Casual Kitchen, I decided to break my habit of avoiding sensitive subjects, and wrote a series of posts I knew would be unpopular with most food blog readers. I criticized food industry regulations. I criticized my readers for making excuses. I argued the case against local food. I even criticized charity activities. Oh, man. I knew I was gonna lose a ton of readers over those posts.

Do you see what I mean now about self-censorship?

But here's the irony: I gained readers. In part it was because I violated their expectations. But writing these controversial posts also forced me to think in new ways about subjects I already thought I knew. And the exercise opened up my mind in completely unexpected ways.

For example, I would have never stumbled onto many of my ideas on consumer empowerment, the psychology of food or the ninja mind tricks of retailers if it hadn't been for my first halting attempts to consider the food industry from an unpopular and counterintuitive angle.

Here's a thought. The next time an idea makes you cringe, run towards that idea. And the next time you instinctively choose "your" side on a debate or an issue, stop yourself and run towards the other side. Force yourself to consider a subject from an unpopular or indefensible position.

Don't censor those forbidden thoughts. Embrace them. That's where all the best ideas are.