Curtis Faith @inflector: Is a writer who writes his/her own personal truth always interesting?
Everyone has something they are afraid to tell others. At birth that’s not the case. But by the time you are 20, 30, or above, then it’s always the case. So let’s make an interesting story out of it in four steps:
A) List the 10 things you are MOST afraid to tell someone. Maybe you cheated on your wife and gave her an STD. Maybe you stole money from a bank. Maybe you killed someone. List them. You are afraid for several reasons. You might not want to get in trouble. You might not want to hurt someone. You might feel regret or guilt. Or you might be embarrassed.
Let’s stick with the last two. Why do you feel regret or guilt? Why do you feel embarrassed?
B) Analysis. So now you have your story (the thing you are afraid to say). But that’s not enough. You need to really know why you are afraid to say it. Why are you embarrassed? Is it cultural? Is it because everyone thinks you are perfect? Is it because you are afraid to admit you had moments of weakness, of vulnerability, of stark raving fear?
And even admit you are afraid in your story. Revel in your fear. The fear and embarrassment itself is part of the story.
C) Help people. Ever story, fiction or non-fiction, has an arc. Part of the arc includes the character changing and developing. This happening. A horror story turning into a love story. A tragedy, as Woody Allen says, turning into comedy if given time. The experience you got out of your story should help people. Which, if you truly believe it, will lessen the embarrassment, although there are many cultural, professional, personal reasons why you might be embarrassed. Helping people, in my opinion, should be goal #1. But you won’t do it if you don’t communicate it well, don’t share your fears and humiliations, and don’t share things that are deeply personal (even if you do it in a disguised manner).
D) 33 Unusual Tips for Being a Better Writer. Read that and then tell the story. OR, if you don’t want to read that, read at least 10 authors who inspire you and meld their stories together to tell your story. You need the skills to write. So be inspired by the writers who have withstood the test of time and know how to communicate a good story. I always read for at least 2-4 hours before starting a blog post. Some recent authors I’ve read: Denis Johnson, Amy Hempel, Miranda July, Mary Gaitskill, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, TC Boyle, George Saunders, William Vollmann, Etger Keret.
I told a friend of mine recently, I don’t write a blog post UNLESS I’m afraid of what people think of me. That’s ingredient #1. The first reaction people should have is: “oh my god, I can’t believe he said that.”
By the way, Curtis, I know you know all of this because of what I read in YOUR book.