Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Fear of Being Real: Waking Up (Part 1 of 4)

(This is a guest post from Peter Lundell.)

The first time I went to a Cec Murphey Writing Clinic, I showed him the opening section of a manuscript. I figured it was good and looked forward to his compliments. He read two pages, thrust the manuscript back at my chest, and said, “You’re hiding behind your words.”

I stared at him, dumbfounded. My initial thought was, What are you talking about? Then something deep inside me, deeper than words or rational thought, knew he was right.

Two pages. That’s all it took for him to see that I was faking my identity. He probably could have done it in one.

He showed me the places in those two pages where I wrote like a know-it-all scholar telling the reader a thing or two, and where I wrote like a spiritual superman who condescended to inform the reader how to be like me. Cec showed me how my phrasing, and my very ideas, functioned like a mask that made me look good and hid the real me from the reader.

He was right, and I was in tears. We hugged and prayed and soon got down to business.

I tore down the words that had constructed my half-intellectual/half-spiritual mask and replaced them with words that revealed my struggles, my questions, and my doubt. I learned that readers would identify much more with the truth of who I was—and that they would detect a mask anyway and probably quit reading.

So are your words a mask or a window?

A mask is anything that gives readers the idea that you’re something you’re not. What kind of masks have you put up in your writing?

A window is anything that gives readers a view and a feel of who you honestly are and what you genuinely go through. What kind of windows have you allowed your readers to look through?

I encourage you to look through something you’ve recently written, as if you’re another person reading your blog, article, or chapter for the first time. Do you see masks, or do you see windows?

—Peter Lundell, peter@PeterLundell.com

2 comments:

  1. Peter, thanks for reminding us to be real. I'm doing the same thing with the process for writing a manuscript I've been working on for 2 years. It was like putting on overalls that are 4 sizes too big - ugh. I'm tearing up the old version & rewriting the manuscript now, so it reads more like I'd be chatting with you at Starbucks. Down to earth. I tossed my superhero cape into the Starbucks dumpster.

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  2. Thank you for the reminder that we should always be authentic in our words.

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