We creative writers—whether of memoir, poetry, screenplays, or fiction—unmask ourselves. It’s partly what impels many of us to write, our need to turn ourselves inside out for the world to see what we’re experiencing inside, and sometimes our need to try to empty ourselves of what’s itching us, or even agonizing us.
But while this need to dig deep and reveal our innards drives many of us to write, once the words are made public, it gets mighty scary. How will others judge our private thoughts, which can be just as ugly as our corporal guts?
In an email to a writing teacher of mine, Suzy Vitello, I expressed my extreme discomfort with the over-exposure and vulnerability I feel as a novelist. She responded by saying something so important to me as a writer I copied her quote and posted it by my computer. It follows.
“I am blessed to be part of a writers’ group that explores all manner of dark, raw and dangerous, so for me, going to that sore, wounded place is not disgusting at all. It’s authentic and necessary, and I applaud you for going there on your own. It is brave, and it is healing, and your true audience will always appreciate that you do that.”
As testimony to the wisdom of her advice, her writing group was called “the hottest writing group in Portland” by Jeff Baker of The Oregonian. The group includes New York Times best-selling authors Cheryl Strayed, Chelsea Cain, and Chuck Palahniuk.
Thanks for the encouragement, Suzy. I will summon your advice when my inner critic is screaming at me to write nice.