The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say but what we are unable to say.–Anais Nin
Another well-known writer today, Anais Nin is famous for a lifetime of detailed journals she maintained that were published posthumously. She is also known for her groundbreaking erotica fiction that not only founded a genre that is becoming more popular today, but in my opinion must have taken a lot of courage to write.
In that vein, her quote has more layers than it might seem over a first, general reading. Authors like Nin use their publications to explore their own deep secrets, and their writing is richer and has more depth because of it.
To be honest, my first reaction to reading a summary of Nin’s work (found here) is to balk at the level of taboo nature she writes about. Writing things like that, things of a taboo nature that I rarely (or never) discuss with other people, terrifies me. But the main difference between Anais Nin and other writers, people like you and me, is not that she had more experiences than a typical person, or that she is more taboo or vulgar or however you would like to put it.
The difference is she had the courage to put herself – her true self – into her words. And she was a better writer for it.
This lesson is easy for me to preach, sitting here on my laptop, thinking about what Nin really meant. Do not doubt, however, that following through with Nin’s advice, and writing “what we are unable to say” would be one of the biggest challenges of my writing career.
Isn’t it so much easier to write for a company? To write an article where you know what your audience wants, what your boss wants, what will sell when an reader is skimming headlines?
Not to write as a reaction to outside forces and desires. To allow the words to bubble up and frothily spill onto the page, despite how much truth resides in them.
I admit, when writing my fiction I sometimes find my story going in a risque direction, somewhere I’m not sure I will have the courage to follow, and I immediately edit, change, delete and erase until I have control of a safe environment once more.
I’m suspicious I’m taking all the excitement out of my fiction.
What do you think? Do you have trouble writing about taboo subjects, or does it come easily to you?
- New Years Eve & Mark Twain: Day -1 of Project 365 in Quotes (valeriesuydam.wordpress.com)
- Anais Nin: Striking Gold At The Public Library (pittsburghflashfictiongazette.com)
- Anais Nin: A Woman Unafraid to Explore Taboo (even when it was her own) (nymphobrainiac.wordpress.com)
- Serious Writing, Brazen Sexuality And Over 4,000 Hits (pittsburghflashfictiongazette.com)
- Andriessen: Anaïs Nin, De Staat – review (guardian.co.uk)