Write Your Heart Out

–If there’s a “secret,” that’s it.

Writing is Damed Hard Work

A real pisser. Although, as we go through the process, or the “journey,” take your pick — we come to understand that it’s difficult on a number of levels.

There is the constant head-bang of “What shall I write about today?” The ripping through grey matter to come up with something — anything — that will connect with our readers. The days when we think we’ve “said it all,” are some of the hardest of all.

Along with that is the ever-increasing challenge of “volume.” Are we, for fu#k’s sake, writing enough? How much is enough, anyway? One story a day? Two? Three?

One gem, or three pieces of crap. Now that’s a conundrum.

How can we possibly wade through all this stuff? Someone, write that story.

Here’s what I’ve discovered. The “secret,” if you will. Vulnerability rocks. Don’t shy away from being yourself. You already know this. We all do. Being vulnerable, “telling our truths,” is the hardest part about writing. I grapple with this beast daily. How blunt should I be? How honest? Who will I hurt? And on and on.

Journalists, the ones we should be reading, anyway, are committed to truth-telling. They don’t fret and stew over who will be offended, or angered, or knocked flat by their words. Because there are no versions of the truth. It just is. Shouldn’t the rest of us writers be held to the same standards? No bullshi#t? No prettying up some of the uglier realities of day to day living? Financial issues. Illness. Relationships that self-destruct. Addiction. Age/sexual/racial discrimination.

I’m not suggesting that we focus on doom and gloom. What I am trying to put across: We all have something we’re dealing with. We needn’t be afraid or reluctant to write about it. Showing our humanity is what will get us read. Being human will elicit the attention we writers thrive on. There’s no getting around that. Again — it just is.

Demons. They’ve been with me my whole life. They perch on my shoulder and scrabble around my brain like ants on rotting fruit.

I’ve written about these demons with few reservations as, for good, or bad, they’re part of who I am. An individual with flaws and warts, who unfailingly tries to do the right thing, but doesn’t always succeed. However, I have a kind heart and I hope that comes through in my stories.

Airing my sh#t. When I wrote about my lifelong struggle with OCD (below), people engaged and were incredibly kind in the process. Not to lie: I was embarrassed at first, but any uneasiness I felt was replaced by a sense of relief.

OCD is No Fun –And It’s Not Funny

I wondered if I should write the story as anyone who suffers from this disorder can tell you, there’s nothing “quirky” or laughable about it. It sucks. It’s scary. And exhausting. But, people got it. And they got me. It was incredibly freeing and cathartic to write about something that’s troubled me my whole life.

I wrote a poem that depicted my dead father in a terribly unflattering light, but it was something I needed to get out of my system. A bad memory I had to purge. I hope he would understand.

I’ve written about — or rather, implied — that I like alcohol more than I should. Another wart. One I certainly share with so many others.

Like any couple, my husband and I have issues. I’ve aired these publicly. Thankfully, he doesn’t read my stories unless I bring one to his attention. That said, he gets me. He knows I’ll tell the truth,

I opened a vein to write my latest screenplay about my parents and I having cancer at the same time. Stage 4 for them and breast cancer for me. I really let loose with this script. I wrote things that I never thought I would tell another soul. And, I am so proud of it. It works because I bled. I held nothing back.

Masks are a bitch. They cut off our breathing and keep us from allowing people to see who we really are. As writers, we need to drop them. Show ourselves with pride and without fear.

Do we have to hurt people? No. I believe there are ways to be truthful without being an asshole. But count on this: Even with our best intentions, we will piss people off. We will also make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them think. Make them engage.

No matter how you interpret these things for yourself, being yourself is what will get you the success and fulfillment you deserve as a writer. All the hard work will pay off. Just remember:

Picking at warts only makes them worse. Cut them loose. Wash them away. Bleed.


Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn is a long-time, Chicago area, advertising/marketing writer, blogger and, for the last fifteen years, screenwriter. A big-time dreamer and proud of it, Sherry has had two short films produced, one in L.A., the other in New York. Both won several awards and screened at festivals but she is still "fighting the good fight," in order to become a full-time, working screenwriter. A passionate straight-shooter who never rests on her laurels, Sherry writes about damn near everything because how do you encapsulate…life? Unflinching in her determination to “just tell the truth,” Sherry strives to educate, engage and inspire others to follow their dreams. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, Sherry resides in a Chicago suburb with her husband and their three fabulous felines.

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  1. Sherry – two of my most absolute favorite peeps have already chimed in here, and I kind of get a little skittish about chiming in where such cogent and inspired writers have already tread. I will trot out what I have held as fairly important criteria – 1) some of the best stuff ever written was written for an audience of one. Sometimes, the writer is that audience of one. 2) The best writing comes from a place of absolute truth. The writer wrings it out on the page, and the reader recognizes all the truth in it immediately. I always say that I don’t like writing, and many times I do not enjoy the process. Most of the time however, I do like “having written.” When time and mental space allow some perspective, I can come back to something I have written and say “Yup, that’s it, it’s what I wanted to say and I don’t know if anyone has said it, and if they have, maybe not like I just said it there.” That’s what we can offer – what is in our hearts, what sits in our craws, what means something to us. What the world does with it, is beyond our control… What matters is that we reached out into the ethos, captured it, and told the world about how it affects us. And in the process, we teach ourselves about crystallizing our thoughts, about sorting out feelings, emotions, facts, stats, and data, and we add a few grains of wisdom to the ongoing march of thought and discussion. It ain’t always pretty, neat or Hallmark-ish, and for that, I am always thankful. Thank you for this thought provoking piece…

    • Tom, you always leave such thoughtful and kind comments. I really appreciate it. I agree totally: “What means something to us.” And if even one person can relate, well, that’s pretty wonderful. That’s how I approach my writing, anyway and it appears that we have much in common! Thank you, again!

    • LOL!!!

      Thank you, Jeff! I can’t say enough good things about Dennis. I’ve been lagging here as I’ve been attempting to turn one of my screenplays into a book and trying to keep up my Medium “presence.” In other words, I’m spinning like a top. That said, I’m going to regroup and get back in the game, here. I’m so appreciate of this wonderful community. It’s just amazing.

      I appreciate you and everyone here.

  2. This piece reminds me of the opening poem in David Whyte’s book “What To Remember When Waking.”

    “To become human is to become visible
    while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
    To remember the other world in this world
    is to live in your true inheritance.”

    We initiate brave conversations and realizations when we can step out from behind the “mask” or role of being a personality, a persona, a perfection-in-progress. We’ve been programmed to be “better” to keep improving ourselves in order to become closer to an idea of what others believe is successfully human. But, here’s the secret that you and other brave writers share, we are all in exile here for a time, dancing with the tension of what it means to mortal, imperfect, and longing for the memory of who we are beneath all the trappings. Keep expressing your version of this tension Sherry, because you are the only one that can share your experience, and your bravery starts inquiry and conversations within others.