I believe in something I call the Writer's Paradox. What readers crave---authentic, revealing detail about what it means to be human---is hard to write and reveal. I taught a workshop once that began with two statements on the board:
"I could never write about…"
"My mother/father/friends/family would hate it if I wrote about…"
You can imagine the groans as people walked into the room. There was undoubtedly fear and trepidation in some of their hearts, and had I been in that class, I would have wanted to turn around and walk out.
We took it slow even as we dove right in. We wrote for ourselves first and foremost, and only when we were ready did we share our writing. Not everyone read out loud. But those who took the leap learned something---no one said mean things or denigrated their writing. They leaned in and responded to the raw, pure emotion and insight they heard.
From my seat at the head of the table, I saw the power of writing at work. It connected people. It shed light on what it means to live life and carry around worries, fears, doubts, hopes, and dreams.
But being transparent does not come easy. It makes us feel vulnerable, and being vulnerable is not something we practice or celebrate in our culture. So if you KNOW you need to be more revealing in your writing, yet doing so feels like a battle, STOP. Whatever you are doing, stop.
The secret to writing personal and meaningful stories lies in the surrender, not the fight. Start in private. In a safe place. Write in a spiral bound notebook that no one but you will see. Get brave enough to be transparent with yourself (tell yourself you can burn it or tear it to shreds if need be).
You’ll start to trust your intuition about what’s true, what’s not, and what needs to be shared. And when it’s time to share, share carefully. Share with someone who will have your back and listen as intently as you’re listening to yourself. That’s how we find courage to start being transparent in the writing we put into the world. Slowly, and one step at a time.
Because really, every single person in that workshop---whether they read out loud or not---was courageous. Being honest with others begins with being honest with yourself.