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Today, I spoke with a writer whose editor told her, “If you’re not prepared to write the truth, you shouldn’t write.”
On the one hand, there’s some powerful advice in there. If you’re hiding something, if you focus only on a pretty package with your writing, such hesitancy to dig deep and write the truth can dilute your writing or prevent you from writing powerfully.
However, in my experience, there’s another side to the issue. If you’re afraid that you have to tell everything, it can keep you from writing anything. Or just hold you back.
You may need a middle ground. Perhaps you can share the deep, dark, vulnerable truth about one experience, but leave out another.
There can be room for nuance. If you give yourself permission up front to censor later, it may free you to write your most authentic and true writing, knowing that you can decide not to contain everything in the end.
Genre plays a role, too, in how much to reveal. Self help and how-to books leave the most room for omission. Memoir may require more experimentation to see what you can omit.
However, if you leave the decision making for later, and truly give yourself permission to write your truth, not only will you likely find more creative freedom, deeper expression and truer writing, you’ll likely find healing in the process as well.
My advice? Write the truth, then decide what to do with it.
What are your experiences about writing truth? What have you been telling yourself about the requirements of powerful writing? Is it true? Is there room to experiment? What feels most freeing to you?