I’m not talking about the potential rejection letters, or even the necessary process of exposing myself and getting a negative response. Those things are scary too, but those I can deal with -- at least in that magical place in my head where theories live.
It’s not about me.
Writing takes serious backbone. Fiction or memoir, we write from what we know and that means the people we love, or loved at one time, are bound to show up in our writing. So too our feelings and thoughts about those people -- everything from their physical appearance to their personalities.
We write about truths. Our truths, universal truths, the truth of things, and people, and emotions.
No matter what I write, someone, somewhere is going to feel a little exposed, put on the spot, and maybe even hurt.
I don’t like hurting people.
Some writers take a hard line with this. I couldn't find the quote, but one writer says something to the effect of, "if they didn't want to look bad in my book, then they should have behaved better".
I prefer this more nuanced conversation on the topic between Cheryl Strayed (a.k.a. Dear Sugar -- and if you don't know Dear Sugar, oh my god, GOOGLE HER NOW) and Sari Bottom. An excerpt:
One thing I will say is that you don’t know what will happen if you write the truth. You don’t know what will happen if you decide to write what you feel really compelled to write. You think that there might be this consequence but there might actually be a different sort of outcome, and it could be a positive one.
Sari calls this column, "Interviews with Writers Braver Than Me". Oh, how I relate.
My point, dear word-nerdlings, is that if you're serious about writing, about digging through the bones and finding your true voice, then you've got to tremble a little. You've got to sweat about what others might see of themselves, about what truths you're exposing (even in fiction) and what that means for you, and others. If you're not trembling, you may not be doing it right.
I want to see you sweat this week. You word, of course, is: