Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Today I started to reflect on my writing journey. As you know, I am starting to get published here and there, which feels great, but there is one feedback I keep getting: apparently, my writing is too direct. As in: too in your face. Here is a short selection of the comments I had to deal with recently:

“Can Muriel tone it down a bit?”

“Your words are too strong – this is too negative ”

“This is far too cynical. Can we soften it a bit?”

“Again, too harsh”

“That’s not very nice”


Well, you get the gist of it. This made me wonder: am I really too harsh? Am I too direct? Because the thing is, I don’t think it comes from my writing. It is just who I am. Before you judge me too harshly, you have to understand that we French are far more direct than you British. It is a cultural thing. For instance, when someone is obese, we French will not be scared to say “you are too fat” or “you should lose weight”. Over here, it would be “you may be slightly overweight” or “have you thought of being more mindful of what you eat?”. We French don’t mean to hurt anyone, we just say it as it is. We were brought up that way. At school, we were never told that our work ‘needed improvement’. It was just ‘wrong’. In short, we are just doing what we have been taught to do. It’s a cultural thing.

To make matters even worse, I am already trying to tone down my opinions all the time. But apparently it isn’t enough. I have learned not to be as direct as I would like to be. Believe me, it was (and still is) hard work. But you see, it’s just me: I don’t see the point of lying or being nasty, because I believe that life is far too short for this type of behaviour. This means that I go straight to the point and cut the BS. Don’t get me wrong, I try not to be disrespectful, and I try to say things as nicely as possible (I don’t always succeed but that’s another story), but I don’t waste time: I always try to tell the harsh truth. If you can’t take it, well, tough luck, and move on!

So why do I have to tone my writing down? Does it mean that I have to tone down -gasp- who I am as well? Is-it some sort of coming-of-age thing (am I allowed to say that growing older really sucks)? Is it about becoming reasonable and balanced? Of course I am trying to see things from different points of view, but don’t you think that there is a time to think, and another to decide and act? Life doesn’t come with a choice of Instagram filters on it, right? You have to take things as they are, and move on. No need to sugarcoat them.

I like being very clear about what I like and what I don’t like. I like being passionate about lots of subjects. So tell me, what should I do? Tone it down, keep going, or is there another option?