“If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.” – Tennessee Williams
What makes honest writing? Even when I try to be as honest as possible with my writing, I find myself asking, when is it wrong or even dangerous to be too honest? There’s letting things off your chest, and then there’s saying too much. It’s not always easy to find that balance.
It’s sort of an ultimate goal for all writers: being so honest in writing that the words become inseparable from the author who penned them. Through this honesty, a writer’s true voice emerges. The trick is to be honest with what you set out to say, but not be absolutely exhaustive in that honesty. It’s much better to give away a little at a time. That’s what can make writing so therapeutic for an author, and good, honest writing can be cathartic for the reader.
The last thing you want to do is rant aimlessly and frustrate both yourself and your potential readership. After all, if you’re writing in the first place, you’re trying to organize thoughts and get something out of them. When you write something that you intend to publish, it’s tempting to spin your offering as positively as possible. But, it’s not always possible to be mostly sunny, and it can even be completely dishonest to do so. Sometimes, you must be brutally honest about the emotions that go with what you’re writing. The end goal should be something relatable that your readers can take something away from and apply to their own lives.
Still, what makes writing such a frustrating craft is finding exactly how to express something, especially when you’re dealing with difficult ideas or situations. It’s often a struggle to be succinct without somehow implying something you didn’t mean. No matter what, there are people who try to find double meanings to certain words or phrases. All you can do as a writer is be honest with yourself in what you are comfortable putting out there for all to see.
Sometimes, you’ll unintentionally expound on something superfluous or even potentially tread on confidential territory. Of course, you may not try to be delicate at all with your writing, and brutal honesty is your calling card. However, I believe it can be the mark of a good writer to tempt people to read between the lines without necessarily being blatant, while still putting out enough truth to allow readers to come to their own conclusions.
At times, in the editing process, you’ll second guess yourself, wondering if you should remove a bit or two out of being too honest. But, for those minds as busy and often overloaded as mine, it can prove a necessity to just unload a little honesty with a thing or two. It’s often tempting to dress up anecdotes to make them a bit more interesting and potentially valuable to readers. Still, you need to be authentic, while also keeping a few healthy secrets for your own sake.
Writers seem to have more reason to be mysterious than most. The more mysteries the author has in store, the more material to be used in the craft. That’s how I look at it, and I certainly have plenty more truths to tell.