David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Writing That's Too Honest Can Be "Devastating"

Question: Does a\r\nsuccessful writing life require personal integrity?


Anne Lamott: I\r\ndon’t think I could make that argument. \r\nIn that a lot of the writers I loved best have had disastrous \r\nlives,\r\nlives that were full of secrecy and lives that were about getting the \r\nsurface\r\nto look right and teaching at the right university and having the right \r\ncrowd\r\nof friends and colleagues and contacts.... and I would say that I think,\r\n you know,\r\nthat’s a very interesting question. \r\nI think I could write about it much better than I could talk \r\nabout it\r\noff the cuff.  It’s the kind of\r\nwriting I do.  I’ve chosen to try\r\nto be honest and to try to share my experience, strength, and hope, and \r\nwhat\r\nhappens is, I tell all this stuff and a lot of it is just genuinely not \r\nthat\r\ninteresting.  And my experience as\r\na writer is that you really do write seven and eight pages to find the \r\nparagraph\r\nyou were after all along.  And\r\nhonesty is not necessarily interesting. \r\nI don’t want to hear about your dreams or your acid trips, \r\nprobably...\r\nunless you make them really interesting. \r\nAnd if you have a voice and \r\nyou’ve developed the skill over the years in the same way a \r\npianist\r\nwould develop the skills starting with the scales... if you’ve developed\r\n a way of\r\ntelling stories that draws me in and makes me trust you—like Spalding \r\nGray,\r\nsay, then he would tell stories that were not necessarily about very, \r\nvery far\r\nout stuff, but I would be riveted, but there’s another life, a very, \r\nvery\r\ntragic life lived by one of the funniest storytellers in the last 20\r\nyears. 


So, honesty can be devastating, certainly to people\r\n in your\r\nfamily are not hoping that you’re going to be a writer who uses\r\nautobiographical material, who suddenly decides he or she is going to \r\ntell the\r\ntruth of what family life was like in the early ‘60s, or during the \r\nEisenhower\r\nyears.  I have been somebody who\r\nhas not written a great deal about the truth of my family’s life.  I have not—I so have the goods on\r\npeople.  I so have the goods\r\non my closest friends, and I don’t use it because my closest friends are\r\n more\r\nimportant to me than anything.  I\r\ndon’t write about the intimate details of my cousins and aunts and \r\nuncles, and\r\nmy mother and my father... because it’s not right to, for me. 


Other writers have and they do feel that, \r\njust—Faulkner\r\nsaying that if you ran over your grandmother in the interest of writing a\r\nbrilliant novel that threw the lights on for thousands and thousands of \r\npeople,\r\nit’s a fair trade.  I don’t feel\r\nthat.

Recorded April 6, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Austin Allen

Unlike Faulkner, the "Imperfect Birds" author doesn't believe you should be willing to run over your grandmother for the sake of a great novel.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How often do vaccine trials hit paydirt?

Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.

Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.

Keep reading Show less

Consumer advocacy groups are mostly funded by Big Pharma, according to new research

An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.

Image by Jukka Niittymaa / Pixabay
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
  • The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
  • Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.

Keep reading Show less

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Women who go to church have more kids—and more help

Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.

Culture & Religion
  • Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
  • A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
  • Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Keep reading Show less