How to Write Like a Badass: Part 4.
“This above all: To thine own self be true.” — Badass William Shakespeare
How many hours of your life have you wasted wishing you were someone else? Oh, come on, I know it’s not just me! Let’s take a moment to explore the simple wisdom of Badass Uncle Willy Shakespeare.
Sometimes it seems like being you is the hardest thing in the world. Don’t ask me why, it makes no sense. It’s probably because we’re bred with insecurities, images of “perfection,” nasty little expectations, and modern seated toilets instead of squat toilets. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think a lot of our problems come back to that.
To thine own self be true. In the writing process, Badass Step Number 4 is easier to come by when you’re starting. Whether you’ve written before or not, write for an audience of one: yourself. Clearly, this story is something that matters to you. So make it meaningful! Don’t let ideas of “this is silly,” or “no one will care about what happened to me” get in your way. YOU care. Right now, that’s all that matters. Don’t make your own story a sacrificial lamb to the Gods of Unworthiness. They get enough of a feast from us as it is.
Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic, life changing, or catastrophic. Some of the best stories come from simple, familiar experiences; eating breakfast and reflecting on the amount of negative articles in your morning paper. Going to work every day to do the same thing, and exploring why it gives you a sense of security. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, tell about life, as it matters to you.
Badass Step Number 4 is harder to embrace when you start sharing your story with other people. Who have opinions. And suggestions. A good, professional editor will tell you that ultimately, the shots are yours to call. If you feel like their suggestions are diverting from the authenticity of your story, pull up your Badass britches and follow your instincts. As captain of your ship, a good crew, like Jack Sparrow’s, will follow your directive. Be thoughtful of whom you invite into your crew; less is more. Just don’t lead them to a kraken.
Having said that, your early readers and editors probably have good suggestions. They may even have a lot of experience. Allow yourself some time to play with their feedback. What would it look like if I changed my narrative the way they’re suggesting? What if I cut this huge chunk out? What if I made the entire book out of the first 20 pages? Create some playful drafts where you turn your manuscript upside down and ask yourself: does this feel true to mine own self? (said in your best Shakespearean accent, of course)
If trying to be true to your own self becomes too much, and your significant other finds you on the bedroom floor, curled in a ball, crying “I don’t know who I am anymore! Am I mine or thine? Who’s hand is attached to my arm and touching my hair?!” . . . it’s time to take a break.
Because, hey; the reason you’ve got a good story to tell is likely because, at some point in your life, you didn’t know who you were. And now you’re writing about it. I hate to break it to you, but identify confusion is a recurring syndrome, especially for the writer. When you feel lost, give yourself some time to step away.
You might work on something completely different. Or maybe you’ll find solace in a book (just remember: that author was exactly where you are at one point). After a while, your authenticity will come back, and you’ll know what’s right. And your significant other will stop checking in on you every twenty minutes to make sure you aren’t banging your head against a wall. You’re gonna need those brain cells.