COLUMBUS— She has published seven books ranging in topics from women’s bodies to civil liberties.
But Saturday Naomi Wolf shared six approaches to painfully honest writing every author should know during at Columbus State Community College’s 9th Annual Writer’s Conference at the Center for Workforce Development, 315 Cleveland Avenue, Columbus.
Wolf’s keynote address called “Writing Dangerously or Writing Riskily” aimed to encourage authors of all skills and interests to reveal their true voice in their work. Her audience of 130 students, staff, and community members listened as she explained the title.
“All really important writing is dangerous. It’s dangerous because it strips away comfort and reveals your true self,” she said. “It means you’re forced to know what you know.”
To prepare writers for the necessary mindset to write dangerously or write riskily, Wolf gave the following tips:
1. Be ready to be weird: “You risk not fitting in or disturbing people,” Wolf said. “It’s about how original you are when you’re not trying to be original.”
2. You have to reject the role of carrying other people’s secrets: “You can be blocked of your experiences because you spend years not saying what you know,” she said. “It’s not your secret. It’s someone else’s secret.” Wolf added that discrediting or killing a messenger is a common tactic used to force someone to continue to keep a secret, but no one should avoid unburdening themselves of someone else’s secrets. “If something is true, it has its own moral dimensions.”
3. Make friends with criticism: Wolf suggests all writers avoid reading criticism, at least initially.
4. Accept that you stand somewhere: “Women, in particular, are encouraged not to know where they stand,” Wolf said. “To do effective advocacy writing, you need to know where you stand. No one owns the truth.” She added the following: “So much prose that doesn’t work is muddy. No one knows where the author stands.”
5. Use clear language: “A strong declarative statement shows where you stand. You have to show up and be accountable,” Wolf said. She summarized that “all great advocacy texts are simple: subject, verb, object. Never use the passive voice; I beg you.”
6. Use clear structure: “It doesn’t matter that much what you choose [to write about], you just need a clear structure,” Wolf said, adding that transitions like meanwhile, furthermore, and in addition to greatly improved writing structures.
Jessica Burchard can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.