How Uncomfortable Are You Willing To Be?

It’s a secret that many accomplished writers understand… and yet, no one really talks about it.

It never shows up in anyone’s answers to ‘what’s your writing routine like?’ or ‘where do you get your ideas from?’

It’s hinted at, sometimes, when someone quips something pithy like ‘Writing is easy, you just open up a vein and bleed’ — but no one ever comes right out and says it.

This is weird to me, because if you’re going to do great work, this is actually far more important than your training as a writer or your daily writing routine.

Here it is:

Writing requires you to do a ton of work on yourself and to be willing to face a lot of discomfort.

It requires you to be super self-aware, as well as a rigorous observer of your own behaviours, thoughts and choices, and those of others.

Great writing doesn’t come from having an expert grasp on storytelling techniques or being able to string pretty sentences together.

Whether you’re writing comedy sketches, op-ed essays or letters to a friend, great writing comes from veracity.

It comes from being able to capture the truth of a shared experience. It’s about being able to put thoughts, feelings, hunches, into words the reader has never been able to find for themselves.

By comparison, the technical stuff is easy.

Veracity is about truth.

It’s about being able to identify the truth — in both its objective and subjective forms —and then presenting it, tied up with a pretty bow, faster and more accurately than the reader can pin it down for themselves.

And this is where it’s tricky — because truth is never entirely objective and it’s never entirely subjective either.

Your job, as the writer, is to deal with that. Most people can’t. It requires a flexibility of thinking that would make the most stretchy of yogis jealous.

There’s a lot that’s challenging about this process.

You have to be curious, when it’s easier to stay comfortable. You have to be bold, when it’s easier to stand back. You have to act, when it’s easier to be apathetic.

But the most difficult part in this process comes when it’s time to accept a version of the truth that’s different to yours.

That’s not to say you change your version of the truth, but that you acknowledge that there is a different way to see the situation and integrate that into how you tell it.

It’s hard on the ego.

But it’s powerful.

It speaks to the multiplicity of each reader’s truth. It captures the universal experience of that moment. It makes your voice ring true in the ear.

We all know veracity when we run across it.

It makes us shout in surprised laughter at a joke we weren’t expecting in a movie script. It gives us chills as a paragraph lifts off the page in front of us. It makes us weep to hear the lyric that cuts to the bone.

It’s the fine golden thread that weaves itself through each of us, drawing us tight together in that moment of shared experience.

And so my question to you today is this:

Are you willing to sit with truth, and look it in the eye? Are you prepared to wrestle with yourself into the silent hours, clawing your way to understanding? How uncomfortable are you willing to be, in pursuit of truth?

No one can answer these questions for you. And I won’t claim there’s one path to truth, or that you can’t write good stuff without this struggle.

Nor will I judge you for choosing a different way: the quest for truth can be a lonely tyranny, and life is already full of thorns.

But if you want your writing to stand strong against the ages, and to echo in the hearts of readers throughout their lifetimes, this is the struggle that awaits you.

Though it may be lonely at times, you’ll never be alone.

One of the great gifts in the writing life is discovering how many others are on the path alongside you, and how willing to extend a warm hand.

I’ll be right there with you, an army of seekers beside me. Will you walk with us?