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Write fearlessly

What would you write if no one knew you were the author?

I’ve been pondering that question a lot lately.

Back when I first started writing, I didn’t know anything about the industry, wasn’t thinking about “publish-ability”, and just wrote what I enjoyed. Now I’m pretty sure I reject story ideas before they even reach my consciousness.

I want to write fearlessly. Like the writers of the old TV show Arrested Development where nothing was off limits, no subject taboo. Like Roxanne St. Claire and Suzanne Brockmann, who aren’t afraid to throw in some outrageous scene that makes the reader gasp in surprise and smile at the audacity. Like Christy Reece who seriously knows how to torture a character.

I want to be the writerly equivalent of a rock-climber, stunt driver, or sky diver.

I want to be a little bit shocking, to make readers wonder how I had the nerve to write that scene (and I'm not necessarily talking sex scenes here people).

I want to write like no one’s going to read my work.

I think only then will anyone truly want to.

Photo credit: J147 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Reply

    Reblogged this on Haylee Slater and commented:
    Excellent post. We all come up against creative walls and asking ourselves what we’d write if we were completely anonymous is a great way to break out of it.

  2. Reply

    Interesting concept, Gwen. I’d call it Extreme Writing. Perhaps keep a journal, just for you. I’ve been tempted to spout off my opinions regarding politics and parenting frustrations lately, but have resisted. It doesn’t fit my branding platform. So in my journal the ranting goes.

    Just a thought.

  3. Reply

    So what’s stopping you? If nobody knew who I was, I’d write exactly what I’ve been writing. In fact, as I gain more experience and a voice of my own, I expect my writing will be much stronger and, to some people, unacceptable.

    • Reply

      That’s good, Catana. I think my main problem is that I feel like I’m self-censoring, often without even realizing it until later. Not so much out of embarrassment or fear, but this sense of what’s publishable and what’s not. I’m trying to get over that mental block. =)

      • Reply

        I think we all have something that makes us self-censor, whether it’s consciously or unconsciously. I started out that way about some aspects of my writing. I decided that if I was going to be true to the characters and the stories, I’d just have to get over it. I self-publish, so I don’t have to worry if it’s unacceptable to traditional publishers. Readers do count, but not to the point where I’ll censor myself for them. It’s more important to find the right audience.

  4. Reply

    Insightful post, Gwen. I needed this reminder today. Thank you.

    I like this quote by George Eliot~ “Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person! Having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out just as they are, chaff and grain together. Certain that a faithful hand will take them and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

    This is the kind of “friendship” I strive for in my writing. Easier said than done.

    I Just got your book, looking forward to reading it, and taking your course in Sept.

    • Reply

      Glad to hear it, Debbie. That’s a great quote. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for buying my book and signing up for the class. I hope you find both helpful!

  5. Reply

    I’ve thought very hard about writing under a pseudonym. I call myself the cowardly writer. Journaling is a great help to keep from exploding but there must be a way to feel safe with our words. I’ll keep reading and looking tor wisdon. You are so much more experienced and I hoping to learn more.

    • Reply

      Insearchofitall: It’s tough sometimes. I could see writing under a pseudonym more for marketing purposes, but I always want to be proud enough of what I write to use my own name. Really I want to get rid of that inner editor that I think holds me back. Good luck with your own journey!

  6. ABE


    The other side of the lay-it-all-on-the-line coin is what will my friends/husband/children/mother-in-law/sisters think?

    Or boss.

    I will publish pseudonymously. I will be creating a separate identity. I used to fantasize that I could BE that secret identity on my book tours (they still have those sometimes, don’t they?). The other side of THAT coin is the modern fact of life: cameras record everything in many places – they say that in downtown London you can take it for 100% certain – so the book tours will be out. Darn! One look at a screen by the wrong person, and you’re outed.

    So the pseudonym will have to be vigorously protected, which then means giving up the community of people who would benefit from this particular novel. They would take the novel coming from one of their own as proof of really knowing what it’s like, BUT the general public (more potential readers) might then dismiss the work – as not being ‘proper’ fiction.

    Can’t win either way. Haven’t decided what to do for real. It’s an interesting place to be, a particular side hell in ‘write what you know.’

    Think Christy Brown (My Left Foot): people knew about his disability – and pitied him. Pity is corrosive in fiction (I guess it is okay in memoir). And it begs the question of Can she really write? vs. Does she really have only one (this) book in her, fictionalized or not?

    It can, in the long run, be fixed by writing other books, on other topics, which is my general aim.

    And, though you can never go back to being anonymous (at least not with that particular pseudonym), you CAN choose to out yourself when you’re ready (and wildly successful and rich).

  7. Reply

    ABE: Your first line is exactly the thing that I think holds me back, even when I don’t realize it. Add publishers and agents to that list too.

    I agree that your real identity is much harder to protect in this day and age, even if you get the copyright under a pseudonym.

    Good luck with the writing, the pseudonym, and being wildly successful and rich! 😉

    • Reply

      Thanks, Chris. Good point. I think the need to be true to ourselves and our personal creative vision extends to everything in our lives. I should probably just say I need to live fearlessly. Good luck stepping outside your own comfort zone.

  8. Reply

    Go for it, Gwen! I feel the same way, and try to write that way. I’m not always successful (dang that internal editor and worry about what family and friends might think!) but when I am, when I am really writing with the thought “no one will ever see this,” the words just flow. I don’t know if anyone ever actually will see anything from those sessions, but I do know that I always feel good about it afterwards and that’s what keeps me trying. 🙂

    • Reply

      Great attitude, Maura! And someone will definitely see your writing. I’ve seen some of it, so I can judge. 😉 Good luck staying in the flow!

  9. Reply

    In this day and age of self-publishing, I do not believe that there is a reason to hold back as an author. Write what you feel and damn the torpedoes. 🙂

    • Reply

      Good point, Wendy. And that’s my whole point. I don’t want to hold back. Just have to figure out how to overcome those habits. If my son can be brave enough to dye his hair atomic turquoise, surely I can be true to my characters and my story. 😉 Thanks!

  10. Reply

    Ha ha … well, I wasn’t sure I was going to respond here, but when you said your son dyed his hair atomic turquoise, I just had to say, “Awesome!” 🙂 Actually, I’m not even sure what atomic turquoise would look like. Anyway, you bring up a valid point. I know I self-censor what I write and wish that I didn’t. And it’s all for the same reasons everyone states. While I’m improving, slowly, it’s still there. I can appreciate the freedom of anonymity, but I don’t really want to be anonymous …

  11. Reply

    Dave: I really do love his fearlessness when it comes to his look. It probably helps my attitude that he’s a really good kid too. 😉 Here’s what atomic turquoise looks like (see the color swatch in the middle under the jar): He looks like something out of a comic book or Pokemon cartoon, but it’s cute and fun.

    We probably all self-censor to some degree, but I hope that being aware of our filters and biases and fears will help. The first step is awareness, right? I hope so, because I don’t want to be anonymous either, just to write like I am. 😉

    • Reply

      Man, that’s a great color 🙂 Thanks for letting me see it.

      And a hearty “Amen!” to that last sentence …

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