Tuesday Tip: Write Something Embarrassing

Tuesday tips is a category of posts here at Writerly Life that promises to offer concrete tips for improving or kickstarting your writing. The tips that fall into this category are the sorts that you can do today or even right now.

Write Something Embarrassing

In one of her books, master storyteller Lorrie Moore says, “write what you would be embarrassed to show your parents.” This doesn’t mean the best writing is gossipy or confessional; rather, for our writing to be good, it must expose a degree of emotional vulnerability and rawness that we would be embarrassed for our parents to see in us. It must be personal in that it must be personally felt.

Too much of our writing is tame, shy, or self-aggrandizing. Would you really be willing to write that moment when you were caught doing something gross or when you were broken up with or humiliated? Would you be willing to write about sexuality or desire in a way that would raise your parents’ eyebrows? This sort of boldness is often what it takes to make a piece memorable rather than merely competent. It’s a big task, but to start down this path, you can do something today. You can cut out one scene that is tame or emotionally safe, and replace it with a scene that is true to something you hold very close. Again, this does not have to be about the facts of your own life. It simply must reflect something you feel strongly, something you’d be a bit embarrassed to admit is a thought or a feeling you’ve had. Put it in the mind of a character instead — but portray it honestly, without prettying it up.


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