The struggle to find an open and honest voice in personal writing

Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay is an expressive and explanatory piece that outlines the principles of informal writing. I feel that it does a very good job fleshing out the details of what will make a personal essay special and powerful. Most notably for me, Lopate describes the importance of being open and intimate with the reader, as if you were “speaking directly into [the reader’s] ear”(p.23).

This has always been my biggest challenge in creative writing, and I know why. I have analyzed time and again the reason that I struggle to show even a hint of vulnerability or real emotion in my writing, and the answer is that is scares me. The purpose of the personal essay is to show yourself to someone, as naked, exposed and true to yourself as you could possibly be. Whenever I think of this, I literally cringe. I struggle so much to be able to let others in, strangers, when often I feel that I am barely honest with myself about how I feel. I do have real, deep feelings, pain, animal instincts, vices. There are things about myself that I don’t like and there are versions of myself that I’m not proud of. Before I can become an effective informal/personal writer, I think I will need to start the journey of accepting myself. Maybe then I can feel comfortable stripping my soul bare of all of its protective barriers.

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2 Responses to The struggle to find an open and honest voice in personal writing

  1. klucenko says:

    Great post, Liz. I wonder if the “the journey of accepting [your]self” happens at the same time as “show[ing] even a hint of vulnerability or real emotion in my writing.” Seems to me those two acts/gestures are very closely intertwined, and can happen concurrently. Through your own practice of showing emotion in your writing, you can/will connect with your reader.

  2. thaque29 says:

    Hey, Liz. I found this post very relateable, especially after writing nearly 6 essays where we were asked to pick important moments and write personal accounts. My journey is a little different than yours, however. While you realized that there was a barrier that kept you from being fully open, I figured I had no barriers, and that my personal writing was as personal as I could make it. I realized when writing the first essay about the lie, that I was wrong. I hid my real emotions behind humorous scenarios, an excess of adjectives, and interesting details. While some of the things I used to unknowingly hide behind made my essays entertaining, it didn’t accomplish what I wanted it to.

    I think many students are conditioned to write reports, and not personal accounts. There is a certain style we develop when we write formal essays, and many of us have erroneously carried those traits into personal narratives. I hope that over these past few weeks, you’ve challenged yourself to overcome the obstacles that prevented you from being honest with yourself in writing. I think after 7 weeks of reading and writing great essays, many of us are well into the journey of self acceptance and effective writing.

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