Until about a month ago, I was a writer who didn’t write. That may seem like a strange admission from someone who has made her living as a writer for the past 25 years, but it’s true in a fundamental way.
Yes, I’ve edited thousands of articles and written a couple of hundred during my years at Time Inc., Worth and Working Mother magazines. I’ve created pages upon pages of content for dozens of websites and written countless pieces of marketing materials over the past couple of decades. But until recently, I never shared a real piece of myself with a reader. I rarely wrote about things that moved me at my core and even when I did, in my head, there was too much at stake to share those personal reflections.
There are many, many writers in the writers-who-don’t-write club (you know who you are), some with a modicum of talent, some with an extraordinary amount. Whatever our skill level, we may as well have zero aptitude and not a thing to say if we don’t put pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard). Certainly there are those who write for their own pleasure who are happy to never show their work to a single soul. But most writers do want to share; for those who have a hard time doing so, the trick is identifying roadblocks and figuring out ways to flatten them, or at least get around them.
A couple of roadblock-flatteners I’ve been working on:
- Silencing the perfectionist in my head, the voice that compels me to self-edit as I write instead of getting my thoughts out then returning for a second (third, fourth and fifth) look later.
- Trying to write in a voice I’d like to read. To that end, I’ve spent time thinking about authors I treasure and why. I love Mary Karr and Tobias Wolff for their searing honesty and humor in the face of awfulness. I love the way Allan Gurganus tells stories in a way that’s elegantly spare yet thick as chowder. It’s these specific voices, rather than some vague notion of writerly-ness, that inspire and inform my own.
It takes tenacity to turn thoughts into prose; it takes guts to share those words. When you publish a piece of writing — or simply show your essay to a friend — you make yourself vulnerable to criticism, to misinterpretation, to disappointment. On the one hand, your readers might not get it, might not get you. And that can lead you down a rabbit hole mined with self-doubt: Are my experiences boring or meaningless, or I am such a bad writer that I can’t express what I want to say?
On the flip side, your readers might understand exactly what you’re saying, which means you’ve been frighteningly successful in revealing some piece of yourself, perhaps a piece that’s shameful or painful, or that’s been safely hidden for a long time. Connection with the audience is the ultimate goal for every artist, be they writer, painter, or musician. But you’ve got to be brutally honest for a real connection to occur and sometimes, that’s terrifying. I recently wrote of an experience that scared the shit out of me, both while it was happening but even more so afterward, when I realized that my reaction to the event revealed a pretty ugly side of me. (Still waiting back from my editor on that one, but ready and willing for the harsh feedback I expect to get from readers should the piece be published.)
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post
Amy Barr, TueNight.com