I gave the assignment in class a couple of weeks ago to, “Write about 10 things you know the real truth about.” Once we honed our lists (which was quite a process in and of itself), we wrote lists–or a paragraph that succinctly summarized what we knew about the topic at hand–what we knew deeply. I loved this exercise and wanted to share a couple of the topics I wrote about:
I know the truth about being a famous author:
1. When you are a famous author, people will either adore you, worship you, idealize you, not care about you, not know about you, feel jealous of you, project all their feelings on to you, hate you, blame you, attack you, belittle you, target you or love you. Very few people will actually see you.
2. When you are at your most famous, you will feel the most invisible and unseen and you will crave being around people who knew you before you became famous-in fact, you will prefer the company of those who could care less that you are famous and don’t take your PR seriously at all.
3. Once you have published a successful book, there will be immense pressure on you to publish another one and another and it is very hard not to crack under the pressure to repeat your genius. People will want you to repeat what you have done and if you want to do something different or take a risk, this will not be allowed because people will want you to keep doing that thing you are famous for.
4. If you make money with your books and you were just a scraping along kind of person before your unexpected success, you will suddenly be very different than all the people you’ve known and loved until that point and it can create some real problems when suddenly you don’t have to think about whether or not to fly to Hawaii to take scuba diving lessons and your best friend is still wondering how to pay the rent.
5. It can be very lonely at the top.
6. You are only as good as your last book. No one is interested in the development of your writing career; they are only interested in how you can influence their bottom line and once your famous period is passed, you will go back to being the same nobody you were before you became famous.
7. The good thing about being a famous author is that no one can ever take that amazing accomplishment away from you-especially if what you did really made a difference in people’s lives and wasn’t just a fluff piece that happened to catch the national fancy.
8. The real danger of being a famous author is that you can get caught in believing your own PR and forget that you shit just like everyone else. That’s an occupational hazard and it can result in you becoming very obnoxious and unreal. Avoid that at all costs. Come home from your book tour where you stayed in fancy hotels and ate room service, where everyone fawned all over you and asked for your signature, and ask your spouse to tell you to wash the damn dishes. It works like a charm every time.
I know how to tell the truth on the page:
1. Keep your pen moving and don’t hold back.
2. When something comes up that you don’t want to write, write it anyway. When you feel like you would rather throw up or die than put it on the page, put it there. Even if you are shaking and sweating and crying and are certain God will strike you dead, write it down anyway.
3. When there is something scary and you are writing around the edges of it, go right to the heart of it and put it on the page.
4. Tell yourself that no one else will ever see it and that you will never read it out loud or publish it (even if you know that this may not be true). Lie to yourself if you have to-whatever you have to do to trick yourself into placing those words, one at a time, in a row, in black and white on the page.
5. Tell yourself you will feel better with those words outside of your rather than stuck on the inside. Even if you’re not sure that’s true.
6. Admit to the worst things. Say the embarrassing thing, the shameful thing, the awful terrible thing.
7. Break every taboo.
8. Make a list of things you will never write about. Then write about each one.