All appealing writing has one thing in common–it is honest. I struggle with that. It’s not that I’m a dishonest person; I’m about average in the honesty department.
Now that line right there—“I’m about average in the honesty department”—that’s dishonest writing, because first of all, how do I know how I stack up to everyone else in the honesty question–I don’t. And second, what is that line really saying? Nothing. It has a mushiness to it that is warning me—not honest writing.
I do know when my writing isn’t honest. But I try to get away with it anyway. Why? Laziness maybe, fear mostly. Honest writing is sharp and clear; it lances through an idea, spearing it and leaving it quivering in resonance. Dishonest writing, on the other hand, doesn’t reveal; it hides.The whole point of writing, however, is to reveal.
I started this blog to teach myself to write honestly. It is a sink or swim idea, since if I’m not honest, I’m wasting everyone’s time, including my own.
So each week, I struggle against the urge to hide behind pompous or vague phrases and safe ideas, to instead open myself up by honestly communicating something I believe in. To do anything less is disrespectful to the reader. The vulnerability that honesty demands is scary. But scary as it is, I think it’s crucial for perspective.
Ann LaMott, in her hilarious book on writing, Bird by Bird, sums it up perfectly when she writes about the fear of trying something new: “The worst that can happen is that you realize you’ve made a terrible mistake.”
That sentiment knocks some perspective into the effort or situation. It’s just me, and my little sense of who I am and what I think I am worth and what I can contribute.
It’s not that big a deal.