Stop Wimping Around and Write the Truth
This morning in my Google+ Baby Boomer community I was particularly struck by a post from new member. He said he’s a writer, an author, and has yet to find a robust, consistent outlet for his writing so he can make a living. He went on to tell us that it takes half of every day for him to get up the energy or positive outlook to make the day a good one, and I was saddened by that. I wonder if it’s the marketplace, which very well might be, or if its his voice or his writing. I don;t know the man, but I do know that if you work terribly hard at selling your writing, without paying microscopic attention to your writing, itself, your road will be long and bumpy.
As writers, the people who create books, it’s, in my opinions, our obligation and our destiny to tell the truth and to do it in a way that gives value to our readers. Let me direct you to two of my favorite examples of telling the truth with pen, or keyboard, as the case may be.
- Howard Zinn. The book I am most familiar with is A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. It was published in 1980, but don’t let that prevent you from paying attention to what it says. Hey, you know how it all comes out, anyway, right? Read the book. Find out how this country actually evolved. Zinn tells how many of our ageless heroes may not have been heroes at all. Some were scoundrels, and some got cast in heroic roles as they struggled against their own demons. The book is widely available, you can, of course, get it at Amazon A People’s History of the United States (P.S.)
— or you can get a Cliff Notes sampling by downloading or You-Tubing a really terrific video tribute to Zinn and his work. Share with your children; they deserve to know.
- The West Wing (Created by Aaron Sorkin) and aired in prime time on NBC from 1999 to 2006. The series demonstrates some of the best, strongest, and most engaging writing I have ever found on television, and I am not prone to hyperbole. Many of the writers and consultants were advisors from actual previous Washington administrations — Clinton, Bush, and others. Oddly, I never watched a single episode when the series aired, but have been watching via streaming video this past few months. One evening, my husband and I were lolling in our recliners, watching season two, lights dimmed and our energy levels where they usually are at 10 p.m. on a weeknight. Laura Dern was playing the U.S. poet laureate — doing a soliloquy about art and creativity. She spoke a couple of lines that made me sit straight up and switch on the lights.
You think that I think an artist’s job is to speak the truth. An artist’s job is to captivate you for however long we’ve asked for your attention. If we stumble into truth, we got lucky, and I don’t get to decide what truth is. I write poetry…. That’s how I enter the world.
For me, that is exactly how we writers and authors enter the world. We take what we find in everyday existence and we work it into manageable bits and present it to our fellows. It’s our job to write importantly, whether we’re writing 50 SHADES OF GREY or A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES or anything in between.
Zinn, who died in 2011, said he searched long and hard in college to find a book that told history the way it actually happened, rather than recounting the tired old text book fan fiction school children grow up with. He couldn’t find the book, so he wrote it. I have no way of knowing if he had in mind to become a famous author, but from listening to him speak, I can only conclude that such thoughts were not at the top of his motivations. Zinn needed to hear the truth and the only way he could do that was to look for it, work it into manageable bits, and enter the world with it.
I hope before you publish your next book, you look a little closer at it, shine it up, be sure it represents you well, and then enter the world with all your power and strength. The rest will find you.