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 fuck’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.
And now, with the shift in Medium’s algorithm, we’re confronted with more questions, more doubts and naturally, more “how-to” stories than ever. 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 bullshit? 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.
Airing our shit is what makes us engaging.
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 shit.
When I wrote about my lifelong struggle with OCD, 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. I wondered if I should write the story as anyone who suffers with 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.
How about you? What are you holding 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.