Our only task as writers is to tell the truth

You know that thing you can’t stop thinking about? The idea or memory that wakes you up breathless and sweaty?

THAT’S what you write about.

Because the shit that gets your blood pumping also keeps you motivated – fuck, it burns you up – when the writing gets difficult.

At no time is this more important than when you’re writing a book. It’s hard work, people. The more you write, the more confusing and overwhelming a book becomes. All those timelines and transitions, story and character arcs.

But you need to get it out. You can feel it burning the back of your throat, threatening to come up without your permission.

You have a choice: You can stare at the blank screen and sweat, or you can dive in and be true to yourself. Maybe for the first time in your life.

write_fearlesslyOh my God, my Mom is going to freak when she reads about the night I did cocaine.

My boss is going to fire my ass when he sees what really happened on that business trip overseas.

What will people think of me when they read I had an abortion when I was 14?

Really, it’s not your job to care what anyone else thinks. In fact, nothing screws up a writer faster than fear.

I mean, if you really believe jail time, divorce or family drama could result from your story, use a pseudonym. Or wait to publish until someone dies. (I know it sounds cold. But many authors do just that.)

The point is to never, EVER soften what’s yearning to come out because of some false notion that another person might do/think/feel/say something you don’t like when they read your work. Someone might be offended? Someone may not want to be your friend?

Newsflash: Anyone who truly knows and loves you already knows your stories. Putting them on paper won’t change a fucking thing.

Our only task as writers is to tell the truth. Not everyone likes the truth, and that’s okay. Because not everyone is supposed to love us and what we do all the time.

Some people will suck down your words like tequila, and some will vomit it up like it’s too much. That doesn’t matter. That is actually none of your business.

We writers have the singular distinction of being paid to tell our stories. And we are the only ones who can tell them. YOU make your stories unique and alive.

Unfortunately, honesty and authenticity are so rare these days, people scramble for it on the rare occasions it appears. Nowhere is that more evident than in books.

Blurring scenes, leaving out pertinent but messy details, softening real experiences – all of those things are a disservice to your readers. You owe them the whole story. And they can tell when you hold something back. They also tend to get cranky, and then they don’t trust you to tell the story anymore.

So, um, don’t do that.

Instead, take a deep breath and say what you need to say. And don’t you dare apologize for being you.


Subscribe in the upper right hand corner and grab my free book A Writer’s Voice, designed to help you write like YOU. So you can say what you want to say, how you want to say it – and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks (and quit writing like a pretentious asshat). It matters.

4 replies
  1. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Now here’s the question that will keep a writer up at night – how much do you admit to? Do you say it’s art made real by great research or do you own the bits that make people sweat?

    Not looking for answer. It’s an alligator I wrestle with when I feel challenged on my authority.

  2. Duggy
    Duggy says:

    Great point Becky! Fear really beats the living hell out of me. And after that I go ahead and beat myself up again too. So ridiculous!
    Who taught us fear in the first place?


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