Last month, I had the opportunity to contribute to an article in Romance Writers Report, the publication of Romance Writers of America, about writing fearlessly. And I gave this response:
Dig deep. If you’re perfectly comfortable with everything you’re putting on the page, you’re probably not being honest enough. The real power of writing comes from mining and confronting your own fears, your own failures, your own traumas. It’s only then that your work will resonate with readers and let them know they’re not alone in the world. For the author, the process can be transformative.
The thing that makes writing both so powerful and so scary is that as authors, we’re revealing part of our psyche on the page. Even if we don’t necessarily agree with the actions that our characters take, the situation still springs from our imagination or our experience. There’s always the risk that we’ll be judged for what we put on the page, not just as a writer but as a person. Consequently, when we become over aware of the audience who will be reading our work, whether it be strangers, friends, or family, we can be tempted to pull back and play it safe. To go for the ordinary, inoffensive, and boring.
And that impulse is what keeps us from being great. That line or insight that feels so risky, so scary to put on the page, might be just what some reader needs to see. That scene that hits too close to home is where your writing transforms from fiction to reality. That thought that scares you to death is what makes you from a writer into an artist.
I’m not saying to push the boundaries of taste or to challenge taboos for the sake of shock value. I’m saying that your intellectual honestly and your emotional authenticity are what transcends the written word and connects you with your audience.
So be brave. Bare yourself on the page for all to see. And see if it doesn’t transform you too.