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Dancing Naked Down the Street

This guest post is by Carol White Llewellyn of Family, by Choice.

On July 7, Going Gonzo, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Blog, by Enzo F. Cesario, struck a chord with me.

dancing naked down the street

Copyright Sergey Peterman - Fotolia.com

His post reminded me of a creative writing course I took with the indomitable Dr. Abraham Rothberg, who passed away earlier this year. Dr. Rothberg was a wise man who advised, “when you write well, you’ll know it. You’ll feel more naked than if you walked nude down Fifth Avenue in New York City.” The Bronx native went on to assert that few New Yorkers would even notice. I’d add that writing well is really more like dancing naked down the street. When you do that, people do notice.

Cesario speaks about the importance of writing honestly … writing uncensored … writing naked. I admit that I have a hard time doing this. It’s only in rare and unguarded moments that my writing dances naked. But I always feel it when it happens.

Sometimes writing naked means voicing criticism. For those of us indoctrinated with the adage “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” criticism may never become integral to our writing. I like to think that’s okay. I can’t help but feel that if one writer doesn’t feel comfortable in critique mode, there’s probably all too many who relish it.

Sometimes it means sharing personal information and feelings. Like mine, your family mantra may scream, “It’s nobody else’s business what happens in our family.” To write “the truest sentence you know,” as Ernest Hemingway always advised, you have to overcome this.

Often, it means breaching your own privacy. I had my online identity stolen a year ago by hacks trying to scam funds from friends and followers, so I fear opening myself to more of the same. Jump the fear.

As for editing, sorry Enzo, I disagree. Less is more. It polishes the diamond. There was one adoption post on my blog, Family, by Choice that I rewrote three times before I felt okay to share it.

There are some topics, and some posts, that lend themselves more to openness. It’s the very rare writer whose words are an open door to their soul. At best, most good writers have to be satisfied with a swinging door.

Be prepared for the sting. You can’t dance naked without running into some hornets. The very first post I wrote on adoption was slammed by an anti-adoption advocate. She’d been adopted by an abusive family and she was vehemently opposed to the institution. After I got over the shock, I was delighted that she’d taken the time to write. I invited her to offer a counter-view. She didn’t. At least I knew the post hadn’t been met with apathy.

All you can do, day after day, week after week, is put yourself out there, warts and all. And on occasion, when the weather’s right and there’s a song in your esprit, your words will dance naked down the street. You’ll be surprised how many will notice.

Does your writing dance naked down the street?

Carol White Llewellyn writes the blog Family, by Choice for which she also produces a cable and online TV program, and The Finger Lakes Travel Maven (travelmaven.wordpress.com), which incorporates occasional video and for which she has begun producing cable TV specials.

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Comments

  1. Getting over the hurdle of fear when it comes to writing is a daily struggle. But, once I hit publish and see my words being shared…it’s worth the jump.

    • Jacob says:

      That’s one of the biggest hurdles for many writers, including myself. Half of the time it takes me to write an article is spent worrying about whether someone is going to like what I had to say or not. Once you get over that fear and start to write for the love of writing, it suddenly becomes easier to succeed with your blog.

      • James Greg says:

        I agree. This fear is the greatest until it is published. After that you are as good as naked and people will judge you accordingly. I think personal satisfaction also counts greatly.

  2. Doreen says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I am a big fan of serendipity and synchronicity and I will put finding this post today in that category as I have been debating writing a post on my own blog that is much more revealing of my home life than I heretofore have written. I still need to think carefully about what I will write and how but your post is making me lean towards sharing more information that will help my readers put the rest of my writing into a more understandable framework.

    I was surprised to hear that someone blasted you for advocating adoption. I would think the issue would be putting better controls in place to monitor the treatment of adopted children, not to dismiss adoption altogether as what is the alternative – children spending their lives in institutions or more abortions?

    • Doreen -

      Don’t think too hard about you want to write…just write on something you’re passionate about and your words will sing. Just make sure you’re comfortable with what you’ve written before you hit the ‘publish’ button! You can always delete the post, but you can’t erase what someone has read that’s in their head.

  3. karen says:

    Great insight! Great article! And yes, I think we all come across that point when it is hard to write naked and let others into the depths of our souls.

  4. Can’t agree more – writing a good post is a delight like no other… And yes, you know when you have written well. Good posts might take a few revisions like you have pointed out, but there is absolutely no point in publishing mediocre posts just for the sake of numbers.

    Well written posts take more time and effort, but pay back multi-fold in terms of better reader engagement, better feedback and better earnings in the long run.

  5. nice article – inspiring!

  6. I wonder if actually being naked would help us get in the mindset? :-)

    “As for editing, sorry Enzo, I disagree. Less is more. It polishes the diamond. There was one adoption post on my blog, Family, by Choice that I rewrote three times before I felt okay to share it.”

    This seems self-contradicting to me. I think editing is crucial for quality and clarity of communication.

    • I agree that editing is crucial, but I think for some newer bloggers, editing can be detrimental when it comes first over just getting the words out on the page. You can’t edit while you write, and you can’t write while you edit. I had to learn that they are two separate functions, for sure.

      • Thanks, Sarah. BTW, I read your last post, and I hope what you’ve shared turns out to be nothing to worry about. But I love that you can maintain a sense of humor about the scary stuff. I envy people who are good at that! I will be thinking of you and check back in.

    • Totally agree, Stephen! I’ve seldom put anything out that hasn’t gone through two or three rounds of editing, and yet those darn mistakes seem to creep in there!

  7. You are an artist!

    Thank you for your inspirational article!

    I’m going to follow your guidance.

  8. Good post. I often struggle with the same problem. But no matter what you do, not everyone will like your work, so criticism is unavoidable. This is particularly true on the internet, where people tend to be a lot meaner than they are in person.

    • Sadly, that is so true, isn’t it? When you don’t have to come face-to-face with someone, it’s much easier to harpoon them. If you had to wait to “see the whites of their eyes” fewer people would be unreasonably critical.

  9. Yingjie says:

    I love criticism, but I do not like some people will defend their view and do not think about what I talk to them. I agree with Living with Balls, “people tend to be a lot meaner than they are in person”. I experienced this just now.

  10. My readers are all too nice, I swear.

    My posts are mostly informational, instructional, and educational so maybe opinions will show up less. I rarely throw out my opinion, but more techniques that have worked for me with email list building.

    Thanks for the awesome post! It makes me think :)

    Gabriel Johansson

    • Gabriel -

      Thanks for your note. I’ve noticed and agree with you that some types of blogs and posts are less inclined to draw criticism. The travel blog I write seldom gets criticism, but it’s also far less likely to get comments as well, so I guess it’s a toss up.

      If you want to share a bit more of yourself, you could try incorporating occasional personal stories and anecdotes to open the piece so your readers get to know you a bit. That has worked well for me.

  11. Debra says:

    Thank you so much for this article – like @Doreen I feel it is serendipitous. I am launching my website on Monday and some of the posts I have been writing are about my journey with post natal depression. I am terrified of putting it out there, both for the writing and the personal nature of the posts, but it is such a part of who I am now that I wanted to include it to help others.

  12. You don’t actually mean taking your clothes off, do you?

  13. Carol, thank you so much for this post. This is exactly how I strive to feel every time I write (hence, my blog title). Yes, it’s incredibly scary, but the stuff that resonates with people is real (naked), helps your readers truly identify with who you are, and helps you to continue to grow as a writer, too.

    Good stuff. :)

  14. Guy Hogan says:

    One of the most difficult things for a blogger/writer to learn is that it is okay to be vulnerable, to put yourself out there warts and all, to strive for honesty in your blogging. That takes courage; but if a blogger can write with honesty, his or her readers will feel it. They will relate.

  15. I got ‘naked’ yesterday, and I expect some reader wrath and condemnation will be stirred up over my new front-page post: “Surviving Amongst “Believers,” Without Surrendering (A True Story)”

    Que sera sera

    • Jason -

      Good for you! I think writing from the heart…even if it shakes readers up and gives them food for thought…is always a good thing, as long as you’re not betraying their trust. It may upset a few enough that they stop reading, but those readers are probably not your core anyway. Go for the gusto, as they say!

  16. I liked the headline, it does add a certain degree of curiosity.

    “dancing naked down the street” – It’s a really great way of describing writing. The metaphor has some very strong comparison points: criticism, attention, not feeling comfortable.

    great article, daniel.

  17. Writing about oneself is by its very virtue to expose oneself. I applaud your wonderful and unique post–in a sea of ordinary, quasi-useless information, your writing is inspiring–and not many people have the depth to quote Hemingway. Keep it up!