Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Fear of Being Real: Guts (Part 3 of 4)

(This is a guest post from Peter Lundell.)

Having guts is not the first thing that most of us would list as characteristics of good writing. Legendary editor Sol Stein would disagree:
A long time ago I took an oath never to write anything inoffensive. 
In working with literally hundreds of authors over a period of many years, I concluded that the single characteristic that most makes a difference in the success of an article or nonfiction book is the author’s courage in revealing normally unspoken things about himself for his society. It takes guts to be a writer. . . .
The novelist has it easier. He hides a little—just a little—under the presumption that he is making things up. We all know that the most truth-bearing parts of superior fiction aren’t “made up.” (Sol Stein, Stein on Writing, p. 242)
Look at whatever you’re writing, whether a book or article, fiction or nonfiction. Ask yourself questions such as:

-What are you holding back?

-If you could say something without any backlash, what would you say?

-If you expressed something, or raised a subject, that might be offensive or taboo to some readers—but not to God—what would that be?

The point is not to be offensive but to be real. How can we expect readers to be honest with God or themselves if we’re not? We set the example. We are leaders on the page.

What illicit topic in your nonfiction article or book needs to be raised? What dark aspect of your novel’s story ought to be expressed? Do you benefit readers by avoiding topics that they wish you would confront? They need your example, your insight, your guidance.

Besides the limits of common sense and godliness, make sure that what you write doesn’t get you in big trouble or deeply hurt someone you write about. Exercise wisdom. But most of all exercise courage. 

—Peter Lundell, peter@PeterLundell.com


  1. Great point. We do have to protect others to a point. Leaning on God with our writing creates the best.

  2. Love this post, it is something that I'm passionate about in my communication.

  3. Great post Cec! It's right on time really. I had been thinking about being more "real" as a writer, especially as it concerns my personal work. Thanks for this.

  4. I've read Unleash the Writer Within and just finished Writer to Writer to Writer, where I noticed this web address. As part of my commitment to "keep learning" (as Cec does), I look forward to following this blog, knowing it will be very helpful! Thank you, Cec, not only for continuing to learn, but for continuing to teach! Blessings~


What are your thoughts?