Welcome to How to Keep Writing Wednesdays, where you'll find a boost of encouragement to help you keep the words flowing.

Fearless Writing

Writing about difficult things is never easy, regardless of whether it’s in real life or in fiction. It’s easy if all we have to do is scratch the surface or write about something that’s safe. 

But what if we’re writing about something that’s emotionally loaded? What if the mere thought of it sets off a series of emotional time bombs, one after the other? What if what we’re writing about would be considered a betrayal, something we were told never to talk about?

“I can’t write about that” is something I hear from students in my memoir writing class all of the time. And yet, whatever that something is, it still plagues them. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I tell them to write about a secret or something difficult. They can’t shake it. It makes them squirm. It keeps them up at night. And chances are it has for months or even years. But they haven’t risked writing a word.

So what to do? As the old adage goes, the best way out is through. Whatever has you in its grasp, you may as well look it in the eye and go for it. You won’t be free until you do. You can dance around it, justify, excuse, forgive, forget, move on. But oftentimes, it still lingers because what it wants is to be acknowledged, to be called for what it is.

Talking about it is one thing. Writing, on the other hand, makes it tangible and real. There it is written on the page in black and white. But to get there, you need to embrace fearless writing.

This is the power of fearless writing—to put it down, name it, and in doing so, release it and/or at least give it some space. It goes from your heart, your head, through your body, down your arm, to your fingertips, and onto the page. You don’t have to share it—nobody else needs to see it right now. But you need to form that first word and then string it together with other words until it forms a salvation or at least a little release. 

This is not about writing as therapy. Writing is how we communicate and make sense of the world.  It’s about writing as a means to understanding who we are, why we are here, and what we need to do next. When you share your writing with others (fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction like memoir), it helps others find their connection, too. 

Good writing isn’t scared to go there. Its obligation isn’t to fear but to truth. And we, as readers and human beings, can sniff out writing that isn’t honest. Honest writing is fearless writing.