A friend asked me how I can show parts of my life that a lot of people think are too personal to share. I write about my life and I picture my home — office, kitchen, bedroom, etc. I hadn’t thought about it much. I was focused on words, pictures and light. For me, it was a writing or visual challenge. What it revealed about me was part of the deal. That’s what artists do, right? Reveal bits of themselves through their art, whatever it may be.

Still, it was a good question and got me thinking.

Marilyn Herself 9

The willingness to stand naked in front of strangers, in front of the world, is at the core of being any kind of artist. If you can’t let the world really see you, you won’t create things that feel “true.” Honesty is an essential ingredient in connecting with people through any medium.

Years ago when I was just starting to write, my work was flat. I never understood what was wrong exactly, but I knew it wasn’t good. I persisted, endlessly submitting material to editors hoping 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 wrong with my writing.

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

She had hit the nail on the head. I really was afraid my mother would read it. Literally. Moreover, I was afraid I’d hurt someone’s feelings or reveal a secret about myself I didn’t want known. My fear of emotional exposure completely blocked my writing, It was only after my mother and brother passed I finally wrote something honest.

When people tell you to write about what you know, they don’t mean merely you should write about familiar places and situations. They mean you should draw on your life experiences and feelings.

I’ll never be a world-class artist, but I know my best work — photographic or literary — has all come from someplace pretty deep inside me.

You can’t fake art. You’ve got to feel it.

Categories: Photography, Writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. What a wonderful post. I never thought of about honesty and art. You are so right. I know I don’t have any secrets and will talk opening to anyone. I write on my blog from time to time, but I consider my art more my photography. It does come from my heart. Now I kind of know why. Thank you.


  2. I’ve got nothing to add- this is totally true.


  3. And – being true to yourself & your art is good for the soul. 😉


  4. I think I gave up a long time ago worrying too much about who was going to read my blog, because otherwise it felt too stilted and like I was leaving too much out. There are a few places I won’t go, but even those places are lessening. I’ve always admired you for your honesty — you just put it out there and shoo any naysayers away!


    • I think that a certain kind of “I don’t care” comes with age. At a certain point, your parents are gone. In my case, my siblings are gone too. Many friends have passed. I don’t have an employer. The people left in my life are past their judgmental years. To put it simply, I haven’t got anything to lose. It’s a little different when you’ve still got a lot of close family, friends … and a job that could be put in peril if you reveal the wrong stuff..


  5. Well said. I didn’t want my family to read what I put on here because I have been more and more blunt about my feelings for them. It makes me feel better so I no longer care if they do or not.


    • It takes time — sometimes a LOT of time — to be able to face down ones family. The boogie man is a lot easier! It took me a VERY long time. I was well into my 40s before I felt free enough to say what I felt and even then, it wasn’t easy.


  6. Very nice post Marilyn! I might add that artists interpret life, giving us a new perspective and slant on everyday things. Not everone has an artist’s “eye’ but everyone can enjoy the results.


  7. Fantastic post. Just what I needed to read today. I love your work and the way your writing naturally draws the reader in.


  8. Hear hear! I quite agree, Marilyn. xxx


  9. very well said.. it has got to be honest, your writing cannot come true if there something holding you back from pouring what you got into it 🙂


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