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Writing a Brave New Book

Most people don’t realize that it actually takes a lot of courage and guts to write, even tell, a story, especially if you’re doing it right. To share a story, fictional or true, you have to believe that another person will understand you, that you are communicating something universally true.

Forget talent and ability. Writing well requires more than an ability to wield proper grammar and punctuation, even though this skill helps. The best, most classic stories, are so well loved because they capture something essential about being a human. When we close a book, we remember the most honest details.

Today, the simple act of describing something may offend someone. Our society is obsessed with being polite and politically correct. When you write, you risk pissing off a lot of people.

However, I believe that, if your intentions are pure, who you offend doesn’t matter. Each time you write, you must lose your ulterior motives, your anger, your sadness, and your regret. The emotions should live in the writing, but only if they ring true. Don’t cover up feeling with flowery language, and let the ugly stuff float to the surface.

Be true to your voice, your feelings, your memories, and yourself. Don’t be afraid to describe what seems most true to you, even if doing so feels ridiculous or embarrassing. The details that make you most uncomfortable are probably the most important.

We’re all intuitive, but we don’t always trust our intuition. Even when I doubt my writing the most, at least someone will tell me they connect with it, even if it’s only just one detail. The more I realize that we’re all so much alike, the more I’m able to trust my intuition and communicate something that might stick in your head.

(Photo by geese)

One Comment

  1. My rule of thumb has ever been if you aren’t pissing off at least your or someone elses grandparents you’re not writing from the gut. And if you aren’t writing from the gut you are trying to please too many people. That tends to be the sort of flimsy wet cardboard writing I see middle aged women pining for. If that becomes my target audience then I’ll start trying to please everyone, until then I’ll do my very best to appall them.

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