My most popular post so far is the one on honesty in writing.
Brenda Ueland shows us exactly what this means in her exquisite book, If You Want to Write.
It’s what she calls “microscopic truthfulness,” when “even those whose work seemed hopelessly dull, trite, angular, and commonplace . . . would break through from compositon-writing, theme-writing, to some freedom and honesty.”
By writing as if you are “freer and bolder. Let her go! Be careless, reckless! Be a lion, be a pirate! Write any old way.”
In other words, write about things just as you see them.
Show us! And then show us your emotional response. Don’t dress it up in fancy words. Punch us in the gut, or let us relish it along with you.
Then, show us what happens next—what you did as a result. That is the momentum of your story.
Example of an eight-year-old in the 1970s, seeing her grandfather in the hospital:
“He looked small, and the bed was small. His white hair was matted and combed straight back from his forehead, and his mouth was puckered. His dentures were in a glass on the table. I had never seen him without his teeth. His eyes were still blue, but they were pale. He smiled when he saw me but his eyes didn't form little wrinkles at the corners. He looked empty, worn out, and for the first time, I knew that life could be hard.”
Example of a19-year-old leaving a dusty town in South Texas to join the Navy WAVES during World War II:
“Steam hissed from beneath the grinding wheels [of the train], and the wheezing whistle gave another anxious blast, as the elderly porter picked up my battered rawhide suitcase and helped me aboard. I had packed and unpacked a dozen times this last week, carefully following instructions to bring as few clothes as possible and 'sturdy black oxfords.' I borrowed a raincoat from the watchmaker’s wife.
“Mama and Dad kept waving, but I turned away so they would not see my tears. The soft dews of sleep had fallen over Main Street, but a few all-night service stations blinked their lights, saying 'good-bye.' I watched as the feed store, then the bank, and finally the cotton gin faded away into darkness.”
Both are writing from their hearts. They are not pretentious, or “literary.” They are not worried about what we might think.
They are lions, getting it all down on paper “any old way” but with honesty at their core.
And don't you see the world as they see it? Aren't you rooting for them and wanting to know what happens next?
That is the mark of good writing. Trust yourself and "let her go!"
--Ann Kellett, Ph.D.
Ann Kellett Editing