Stand Up Naked and Turn Around Slowly

July 22, 2014 § 4 Comments

man-wearing-barrel-and-suspenders-after-divorce1How does our willingness to “get naked” on the page form our voice, and how does voice hide our nakedness? What’s more naked: writing fiction and baring all, or using one’s life as fact but perhaps more judiciously?

Dinah Lenney’s craft essay “Not-Quite-Naked” is part of a series at TriQuarterly. Ms. Lenney, the author of Bigger Than Life: A Murder, a Memoir and most recently The Object Parade, writes:

Here comes that confession (she starts to disrobe): first, as with acting, I don’t write to disappear, but rather to locate myself. But wait—which self am I talking about? What a stunner to discover—to have to admit—I am not only or even essentially the mother, the wife, the teacher, the student, the neighbor, the friend, the actor, the writer—even as I have tended to write firsthand accounts out of those relationships and situations. But wait again: Don’t fiction writers use first-person narration? Don’t they break the fourth wall? But they’re writing in character, yes? As if I’m not? Of course I am. Does it make a difference—does it say anything about my state of undress that I’m telling you so? I’m certain it does.

Read the essay at TriQuarterly.

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§ 4 Responses to Stand Up Naked and Turn Around Slowly

  • roxhhh says:

    at some point in my life I stopped thinking of all the things I was, and became one person…I don’t remember just when

  • John says:

    Ms Lenney’s essay is quite interesting, and I’m glad you shared it. It does make me wonder about the idea of anonymity; actually, it is a topic that has been on my mind for awhile. As writers, being naked on the page is a challenge, especially when dealing with friends and relatives.

    I have been blogging for several years; the majority of my writing is first-person, personal essays. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the honesty in my writing. I know that several friends and family members read my blog, and that knowledge has kept me from being one-hundred percent naked on the page. There’s always a little bit that gets held back, a few details that would seem awkward for a friend or family member to know.

    To remedy that, I’ve started a blog at random — different name, account, etc. The writing is strictly for all the unknown people. There are topics that I want to explore in my writing that I feel freer writing about when the members of the reading audience are unknown. I discovered early on in my blogging life that it can be rather awkward sitting at a table with people who’ve read about certain details of my life — they want to ask questions, but aren’t sure how; or they ask when they’re not ready to hear the answer; or they seem shocked by something I’ve said. I had a very uncomfortable conversation with someone who’d read a post where I mentioned that I’d struggled with suicidal thoughts. The person (who wasn’t even mentioned in the post) was very judgmental in their assessment of me — even though we’d known each other a long time.

    I’ve wanted to expand my writing, to push my boundaries. It somehow seems like it will be easier to do without the gossipy eyes of friends and family around … we’ll see how it goes.

    Again, I enjoyed Ms. Lenney’s essay. Thanks for sharing it — the timing seems appropriate for my new experiment in writing.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      You’re welcome.

      I kept an anonymous blog for several years, and it was very freeing. Even when I got judgment, I was able to respond as my alter ego and engage in discussion rather than feeling judged as a person. My biggest challenge now is that I’ve written a memoir based on the blog material and I’m having to start “coming out”!

      Happy writing!

      • John says:

        You make a good point — judgement from ‘strangers’ is much different than being judged by someone you know. When you have no emotional ties to the person, it is easier to engage in a discussion; when it is with someone you know, a discussion is more likely to turn into a fight.

        I am looking forward to a bit of writerly freedom.

        And … good luck with your memoir! May your “coming out” be full of supportive people.

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