Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Bloody Writer’s Guide to Crafting More Honest Material, Part 1

My definition of writing is as follows:

“Slice open a vein and bleed your truth all over the page.”

KEY WORDS: Vein, blood and truth.

As opposed to “brain, ink and bullshit.”

Let’s explore eleven ways to write more honestly – five today and six tomorrow.

1. First, honor yourself. All the techniques in the world won’t make you an honest writer if your attitude and intentions are misguided. So, before reading on, ask yourself this question: What is your compelling reason for wanting to write more honestly?

Because you want to make a difference? Because you want to disturb people? Because your boss told you that every time he reads one of your reports, his office morphs into a house of lies?

Why. Is. Honesty. Important.

Figure that out first. Then, try this: Be genuinely committed to honoring reality. Feel the existence of what you’ve been evading. Allow yourself to experience what you feel. Then write it down. Are you courageous enough to extend honor TO yourself so you can make a name FOR yourself?

READ THIS BLOODY WRITER: Alan Weiss.

2. Morning Pages. First thing in the morning. Three pages. Non-stop. No editing. No deleting. Every single day. I absolutely guarantee that after two weeks, this exercise will transform your life in numerous ways.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way series, says it best:

“Morning Pages help you develop honesty in your relationship with your words. They free yourself from the tendency to edit, which pays off in REAL writing. They help you listen to yourself. They are gateways to inner and higher selves. They galvanize your days and make you acutely attuned to your personal feelings. They help you get down on the page whatever it is you are. And finally, they risk honesty on page, which make it easier to be honest elsewhere.”

Start them tomorrow. Never stop. Your writing will become increasingly bloody every day. Are you puking?

READ THIS BLOODY WRITER: Julia Cameron.

3. Assess the risk. There’s an inverse relationship between risk and honesty. If what you’ve written isn’t very risky, odds are it isn’t very honesty either. Your willingness to be unpopular, make wave, rock boats – and, in general, piss people off – makes your writing bloodier.

Hey. You’re nobody until somebody hates you anyway. From now on, ask these three questions of everything you compose: “What do I risk in writing this material?” “Who would this piss off? and “On a scale of 1-10, how much is this material drenched in my own blood?” Are you assessing the risk of your material?

READ THIS BLOODY WRITER: Curious George Carlin.

4. Be specific or don’t use it. Unspecified attribution is the hallmark of dishonest communication. It’s also my biggest pet peeve. Seriously, next time I read a book that says, “Studies show…” I’m going to tear the page out and slowly paper cut each of my nostrils until the living room rug is completely stained in red.

If your writing contains any of the following phrases, you are lying to your readers: Research proves. Scientists say. Psychologists report. Experts believe. They say. There’s an old story that says. I’ve heard. Most people agree. It is said that. Critics say. Statistics show. Somebody once said. The reviews say.

No, they don’t. They never did, never have and never will. Honesty comes from specificity. If you can’t back it up, shut up. Is your attribution specified?

READ THIS BLOODY WRITER: Orvel Ray Wilson.

5. Trash the stats. Conversely, don’t go overboard on the specifics. Namely, statistics. It’s fine if you say, “In a March 2009 issue of FastCompany, Mark Vamos wrote…” But don’t overload people’s brains with numbers you’ve intentionally manipulated to satisfy your own agenda.

In the history of literature, no reader has ever thought to herself, “Wow, this writer sure speaks the truth, what with all those statistics and such.” Be careful. Statistics are usually lies. Of course, that’s only true 57% of the time. Are your percentages causing readers to puke?

READ THIS BLOODY WRITER: Gay Hendricks.

REMEMBER: Honest writing scares people.

Good. That’s your job. The Boogie Man’s got nothing on you.

In conclusion, I’m reminded of the advice of Tennessee Williams, who said, “If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.”

Slice open a vein and bleed your truth all over the page.

That’s honest writing.

Stay tuned for the next six ways tomorrow.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you a bloody writer?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, "9 Things Every Writer Needs to Do Every Day," send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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