June 02, 2013

How To Be A Writer: Tell The Truth (And Run Away)


If you want to be a serious successful writer, you usually have two options:

a) you write fiction (aka a novel);

b) or you write about truth aka stuff you know and believe.

The only problem I currently face is that I am too focused on my immediate life/career (or in Hannah Horvath’s words “too busy trying to become who I am”) to solely focus on fiction. It’s a long and winding road with lots of tea and lots of toast and LOTS of tears.

And right now I feel I do not have the time or sanity to pop off into the corner to write about imaginary people. Step by step. Little by little. Taking too much time off work to write a novel could be as bad as turning to a life of juice cleanses – it would turn me into an insular nutty person. As much as ‘writing stories with a cup of tea and a pet cat’ sounds nice, the reality might not be so dreamy. Routine is extremely important for someone who’s ‘still figuring it out’.

OK, OK, I know Zadie Smith managed to smash out White Teeth during her final year at Cambridge but that is probably the worst idea anyone has ever had to even suggest a comparison to Zadie Smith. It’s almost as bad as waking up every day and reminding yourself that you are not Rita Ora. “Did you know that Rita Ora is only 24? So young! So successful!” It just doesn’t bode well. It’s like going on a Facebook binge and look at rich thin people. It’s just not recommended.

So the other option for now – on this blog – or in other online places, is to write about truths. The only thing is, I do not know many writers out there brave enough to admit/reflect on the truth in the present tense. It’s a bit of a sore subject really isn’t it, writing what you REALLY think, and it couldn’t very easily come and bite you in the bum. I’ve been reading and re-reading Caitlin Moran’s How To be A Woman, Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me. However, for the most part, these writers are reflecting on their past. They can tell their worldwide audiences about their horrific school days, their strange upbringings, their deep and personal thoughts in retrospect: this is safer and cannot come and haunt them. Autobiographical anecdotes from their past lives keep them an arm’s length from true harsh confession. I love them deeply, but it makes me feel like perhaps the thing to do is to wait before you talk about personal things.

One blogger/writer/model by occupation who I admire for writing her personal truth in the present tense is Melissa Stetten who writes her own blog. She is a feisty eloquent writer who says it how it is, talks about people, how they make her feel, her flaws, her talents, basically: what-happened-that-day-with-no-shiny-bells-or-whistles. How many people actually do that? I mean, we live in a world where we have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) chucked in our faces via Facebook every 1.5 seconds, everyone embellishing and bigging up their lives to make everyone aware that their lives are waaay better and shiner than everyone elses. LOOK AT ME WITH ALL MY 50 TANNED FRIENDS. LOOK AT ME WITH MY GREY GOOSE. LOOK AT ME WITH MY BIG FAT SWIMMING POOL! I’m not excluding myself from this behaviour, oh no, it’s contagious, but when I visit this blog I purposefully make sure I want to talk about what is really going on. It’s not about posting a picture of a Cosmopolitan by a sunset, because, who cares? It’s about writing about real life and talking about it. But can I, without jeopardising certain aspects of my apparently peaceful life talk about what I really think?

Here are some blog posts I’d love to write one day. But unfortunately I will have to wait.

Why I Resent My iPhone 

Secrets and Other Tales About An Old School Friend

The Reason I Quit My Old Job

Why I Hate Celebrating My Birthday

Why I Sometimes Go Into Waterstones And Read The Last Pages Of Most of the Books

An Open Letter To My Dissertation Tutor

Dear Two-Years-Ago Me

The Top Worst Things I Have Lied About

All Those Times Where The Grass Has Not Been Greener

What It’s Like To Have a Ridiculously Beautiful Sister

Secret Career Dreams Including Acting and Stand-Up Comedy

10 Reasons Why I Hate Facebook

Things I Said I Regret But Actually Don’t Regret at all

My Worst Interview Of All Time

Why Fashion Secretly Bores Me

Songs I am Embarrassed to Have On My iPod

(The list goes on).

No Responses

  1. C says:

    I know EXACTLY how this feels! I’ve just started writing TBCETC for the same reasons. I just want to blog about what’s going on in my head/life. I’m not going to lie, I’m worried about being judged so I’ve kept it secret from anyone (as well as the followers of my other blog). Hopefully one day I’ll be brave enough to share it with the world a bit more openly!

  2. clarabella4 says:

    I nodded and agreed with all of that post! I also would like to write about more than half of your blog suggestions too.. but the fear stops me saying it how it ‘really’ is…

  3. dustandsoul says:

    I look forward to reading some of those, especially The Top Worst Things I Have Lied About and Songs I am Embarrassed to Have On My iPod.

  4. Completely agree – it’s so easy to get lost in a busy life and not to reflect. Similar thoughts went out on my blog today ‘Just a thought…’ wp.me/p32kgW-oT

  5. Chynna says:

    Everything about this post is spot on! I just finished uni and I’m trying to figure everything out. There is so much happening right now in my life, good and bad every day and I know I could write about it and post it on my blog but I always find a million reasons not too and just go over to instagram and post a photo of something I just bought or whatever. Mindy Kaling’s book is one of my favourites but it’s like you say, her and Fey are reflecting on their past. It’s a shame we’re all sort of “stuck” in this mindset. Your list of blog posts to write about is amazing by the way!

  6. Sascha says:

    I loved this post. I agree on Tina, Mindy and Caitlin’s books (all of which I loved): they talk about themselves in retrospect, i.e “let’s laugh together at how much of an awkward, poorly dressed and clumsy geek I was – but let’s remember that I’m all glossy and successful now”. I love them, but I’d appreciate someone who actually tells the truth in the present tense! And I’m curious about all the post suggestions you mentioned…

  7. mezcla00 says:

    loved it! You made me smile on my way to work 🙂

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