January’s Question of the Month

How important is it to be honest?

Sometimes I think honesty makes the difference in writing that connects with a reader.

I don’t mean Honest Abe, cannot-tell-a-lie honesty.

I’m talking about the confessions of a writer, whether sunshine floods the closet or layers of character traits and subplots dress the truth.

A jazzed up plot is exciting. A fancy vocabulary is impressive. But as it says in Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, ‘What about lunch?’”

Honest writers change the world one reader at a time.

Take my friend Dixie Reale for example. In a recent blog post she describes how the death of her brother, who had Down Syndrome, opened the lid on a box of painful family memories. The effect was powerful. I was moved to consider how hidden parts of my life shape me.

I’m not saying that honest writing need be a confessional, but I am suggesting that embracing our personal flaws in addition to the parts of ourselves we want people to see allows us to extend the same gesture to others with less criticism and envy for their quirks and qualities. And I think that understanding in part helps design dynamic fictional characters or write essays that connect with readers.

If this is all too scary a prospect, consider that writing fiction can be a safe way to go about it.

Sometimes I think the fear of letting people see the raw me holds back my writing. My internal editor may be to thank in cases where it’s appropriate to be prudent, but it nags at me a lot of the time. Writing fiction is a good remedy for the fear of overexposure. Writers have license to conjure up allegories, metaphors, and social commentaries disguised as plots and made-up characters.

So go ahead, begin self exploration through your writing, and see if it makes a difference in the work you want published. No one needs to read the experiment but you, unless that nagging internal editor won’t let you keep it under wraps.

Jennifer Sandmann

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One response to “January’s Question of the Month

  1. Charlotte Maffin

    After reading about your website, I am intrigued. I have written poetry and some personal essays. I have found that I can get very personal and revealing in my writing. I was interested in reading your comments, Jennifer. I will check in again. Thank you

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