And so, here we are. My story and I. Paolo and Francesca. Naked both in life and death. Aware, shamed, repentant in our sins but not in our live.
And Francesca whispers to me:
“Love, that can quickly seize the gentle heart,
took hold of him because of the fair body . . . .
Love, that releases no beloved from loving,
took hold of me so strongly that through his beauty
that, as you see, it has not left me yet.”
–Canto V, 100-105, Dante’s Inferno
Writing about truth and beauty and all those other themes with which writers are so concerned is as easy as taking off your clothes in front of your family, friends, neighbors, and the entire world and letting everyone explore your body without limits or without protest. Writing is making unbridled passionate love to your beloved in front of the whole world and not be being embarrassed. In order to expose the world, you’ve got to expose yourself as well.
In the movie American Beauty, Lester Burnham asks his two health-conscious Gay neighbors for tips on getting in shape.
“Are you looking to just lose weight, or are you looking to have increased strength and flexibility as well?” one asks him.
Burnham replies, “I wanna look good naked.”
So, you’re a “writer.” Good for you. Are you looking to just exorcise yourself of the inner demons you feel have been possessing you all your life — in other words, writing is just therapy for you — or are you looking to have increased popularity and be your own boss as well?
Whatever your reasons for wanting to be a writer, you had better make sure you look good naked.
If you want to be a writer who desires more than dinner table and conference accolades from family and friends, be prepared to get naked psychologically, spiritually, morally, personally, and emotionally.
Now, here’s the Catch-22 akin, here’s the fine print on the contract with the Devil that we never know about until Old Scratch comes to claim our souls:
While you have to expose your inner most self, lay yourself bare on the world’s examination table, you must also be invisible, to disappear so that your reader does not see you; instead, the reader sees the characters and the story, and that’s all.
Even though this blog is called The Naked Writer, it is not about writers at all. It is about writing honestly and invisibly.
Og Mandino became a celebrity with his books The Greatest Secret in the World, The Greatest Salesman in the World, and then The Greatest Miracle in the World, but his work is so well written the writer virtually disappears in stories that expose human truth, human lies, human triumphs, human defeats, and human joy and sorrow.
Og Mandino exposed his soul in his books, but one never gets the impression the books are about Og Mandino. Rather, the books are about the human condition. The books are about us.
And such is the paradox of the writing profession in general and the paradox of this blog in particular. To be a good writer, one needs to expose himself personally, spiritually, morally, psychologically, and emotionally.
Yet, the writer must remain in the background, unseen and unheard and unobtrusive into the lives of the characters who live and breathe in their own particular worlds.
Of course, we have writers like Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, (the present-day) Tom Wolfe, H.P. Lovecraft, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and, yes, Dante–all were (are) successful and are still quite popular despite the fact that you cannot separate the writer from his characters.
They are just as honest and just as genuine as Mandino, but their stories are blatantly about themselves.
As a reader, I am selfish enough to want to read stories that include me as well, and I do not want to necessarily interact with the author but with characters with whom I can relate and debate.
The writer who is not able or capable of “getting naked” in front of a group of strangers without drawing attention to himself will fail to get beyond the dinner table and conference accolades of family and friends.
Writing naked (or, is it “nakedly”) is not the “Emperor’s New Clothes.”
Writing naked is H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. We wear the clothes but remain invisible ourselves.
Take away the clothes and we, the writers, are naked but still invisible because the clothes, the stories and characters, are what are important not who wears (writes) them.
See you on the bookshelves.
Larry Mike Garmon
The Naked Writer No. 2: The Goosed Ya Factor
The Naked Writer No. 3: Spanking the Monkey