What does it mean to write with honesty and courage? What is the relationship between the writer and her work? Do you sometimes step back and look at what you are writing as an opportunity to gain self-awareness or as a practice of self-development?
Here are five ways I try to write with honesty and courage:
- I practice the art of noticing. Not only seeing, but trying to understand the significance of what I am seeing (or experiencing). Then, I use this information to capture the essence of what I’ve learned on the page.
- I let go of control when I am writing and let the words lead me somewhere. I release my expectations and trust that whatever forms on the page was meant to form on the page (for now). I can regain my sense of control during the revision phase of the process.
- If I enter into writing something that is difficult, I light a candle. When I’m done writing, I blow out the candle. Using ritual can help to establish boundaries and safety.
- If I don’t want to share a piece of writing because it is too personal, then I don’t share it. Writing with honesty and courage is separate from the act of sharing the work with readers.
- I often close my eyes when I am writing, pausing only when the inner voice fades. Closing my eyes helps me to listen. I’m doing it now as I write this post. I allow my inner voice to lead me through the piece.
“The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.”Thomas King
I love this quotation about story. I think about the stories we tell ourselves. The stories other people tell about us. The stories we tell others. The stories we hear from others. Story is a universal human experience. There are elements of story in how we live our lives and in every form of writing.
If I had a writing mantra, it would be to write the truth. It’s borrowed from Robert McKee, inspired by an inscription he put in my book years ago when he signed it.
What does it mean to write the truth?
I’ve learned that this doesn’t mean I need to write “my” truth or bare my soul, sharing things that leave me feeling too open to the world. Since the summer I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript. Through the speaker of a poem I can explore “a” truth. It may be mine or it may be a truth I’ve observed in someone else.
Intuition and trust are essential elements of my writing process. I often close my eyes while I’m writing, open to the direction my hands want to take, and let the poem determine its own focus and shape. The same thing happens for me in fiction and playwriting. I close my eyes and listen, allowing my intuition to guide me. It’s about capturing the essence of what is true.
During the revision process I ask: What is this about? What do I want to say with this piece? And then I work back through it to strengthen the themes, clarify the truths, and sculpt the work into a finished product. Sometimes a poem looks very different when I finish, maybe even unrecognizable from the original notes.
What is your truth?
How do you write the truth?