Getting Personal


Today a friend asked me how, in photographs, I was willing to reveal parts of my life that many consider too private to share: my office, our bedroom, our personal world. I hadn’t even thought about it until she asked. I had been entirely focused on the picture and the light. For me, it was a visual challenge; whether or not it was intimate never entered my mind.

But that got me to thinking. The willingness to stand naked in front of strangers, in front of the whole world, is at the core of being an artist. If you can’t let the world see you, warts and all, you won’t create things that feel “true” in the deepest sense of the word.

Once upon a time, I was young and trying to write fiction. Although I was good at many kinds of writing, my fiction was always flat. I never understood exactly what was wrong with it, but I knew it wasn’t good. Nonetheless, I persisted in endlessly submitting material to editors in hopes that someone would like one of my stories enough to publish it.

One day, an editor took the time to tell me what she felt was the problem with my writing.

“You write,” she said, “As if you are afraid your mother is going to read it.”

Talk about stunned. She had hit the nail on the head. I really was afraid my mother would read it. Literally. Moreover, I was afraid I’d tell a truth that would hurt someone’s feelings or reveal something intimate about myself that I didn’t want known. Despite knowing my fear of emotionally exposing myself was blocking my ability to write the way I wanted to, I couldn’t change. Only after my mother and brother had passed did I finally write something truly honest.

When people tell you to write about what you know, they don’t merely mean that you should write about places and things that are familiar. They mean that you should draw on your own life, your own experiences and feelings, because from that well will come your best work.

I never wrote a great novel and I never will. It turns out that you need more than a knack for words and dialogue to write fiction. You also need the ability to develop a plot and characters, an ability I lack. I do know that every good piece of work I’ve done, whether a photograph or writing, sprang from genuine passion. You can’t fake it. You’ve got to feel it.


Categories: Life, Literature, Photography, Words, Writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. I love your writing just the way it is. To me reading your posts is like sitting at the kitchen table at my sister’s home and chatting. You make us feel right at home with your photos that reveal an honest person, willing to show photos of a congested desk. My sister would attack her kitchen table which seemed to be a magnet for everything. Thanks for being you. 🙂


    • Probably that’s my strongest writing ability, that I write exactly the way I talk. I always think of writing as talking on paper and read my work out loud to make sure it sounds natural. We all have different approaches. That’s mine.


  2. I think this post is the premise behind why I enjoy your writings so much. . .down-to-earth, genuine, honest with just the right amount of humor! No fake here, my friend!


    • Thank you. Pity about my lack of aptitude for plot and action. But at least I enjoy doing what I can do, something I suggest to others. We may not be able to make our dreams come true, but there is something else we can do well … and we should do it! Few people take the advice. They want the dream.


  3. I liked these mini glimpses of the environment behind your keyboard. It reveals something about you the person (who I can see likes history and collecting dolls). We all share pieces of ourselves on our blogs from time to time, but the key is not to reveal too much for safety reasons.

    As for Twitter, Paul McFedries wrote a book called “Twitter Tips, Tricks and Tweets”. Great for newbies if you’re ever interested in reading it. You should be able to find it at your library or a bookstore. 🙂


    • If we live “on the grid” … and certainly having a blog puts you solidly on the grid … you are as exposed you can be, no matter what you say or don’t say. Anyone can hack you, your accounts, your world. I hate it, but short of moving to a non-electrified retreat on a mountaintop somewhere, we can be so easily targeted. My best hope is that no one wants what I’ve got. No money, a few doodads that on resale, wouldn’t make the effort to steal them worthwhile. The complete loss of our privacy is one of the direct outgrowths of two things: 9/11 and the internet. That combination has eliminated privacy. If you think you are “safe” because you don’t give away “much” … think again. I have some friends who are hackers and developers. They are not criminals, though they certainly could be if they were inclined that way. Fortunately for us all, they are not, but we have had these conversations and the resolution is: make sure all your accounts and credit cards are insured against identity theft because sooner or later, they will get you. Don’t post your life schedule on Facebook. Don’t worry about it. You can’t stop it if it’s going to happen, so relax and enjoy life. It’s the only one you’ve got.

      Having a lot of dogs helps too. With four dogs barking their little and big butts off whenever strangers approach, foot-pads are inclined to choose a house with a quieter greeting committee!


    • Is there a reason you don’t have a twitter button to share?


      • I know this makes me sound like a moron, but I never use Twitter and am not sure HOW. I don’t use my phone for texting (I hate texting) and 140 words is my introduction to what I’m about to say, so I can’t figure out what I should do with Twitter. I probably need lessons.


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