Photograph by Ellen Von Unwerth

I had a mini breakthrough over the weekend. Something CJ said recently about trusting the story clicked into place for me. I went back to the beginning and started reading through my draft, and realized that when I get insecure about my work, I cover it in elaborate metaphor, or try to rely on rhythm and vocabulary to gloss over the fact that I’m afraid to tell the story.

So much of writing is about overcoming fear. For me, the fear lies in revealing a politically incorrect world view, exposing my filthy mind, being vulnerable to assaults on my intellect or the lack thereof. I paint my fears with a wordy shellac and hope the shine will dazzle the reader out of any honest assessment of me or what I’m trying (not) to say.

The breakthrough is this: the words are less important than the story.

And as I strip away the varnish, the few remaining words seem to gain power. The verbs are more vigorous, the sentences more austere. I have to claim them, I won’t be able to persuade the reader that I didn’t mean what I wrote because it’s all in plain sight. Full frontal, there you go, I said it and I meant it and for better or worse, I will have to own it. It’s still scary as hell, but the fear is part of the story. And I have a story to tell.

What do you hide behind when you’re afraid to tell the truth?


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