The Portrait of a Writer (1)

I began writing in my most vulnerable years. I was dumb and arrogant, as most teenagers seem to be, and I did my best to pour greatness into every sentence I wrote. But I was also lying to myself, writing about what I didn’t know, pretending to know, and I got caught and people could see that I wasn’t willing to let them in – I  was building this wall to protect my true self from anyone who would be searching for it behind my words. There was nothing that belonged to me in the stories I wrote.

There’s this poem by a Romanian poet, Mihai Eminescu. It’s called To My Critics, and the last verses go like this:

It is easy to write verses
Out of nothing but the word.

It took me six, seven years to figure out that you have to be willing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You can call it fiction, make it wear a camouflage, you can embellish, add or remove to your heart’s desire, but you know what’s true and what’s not. And deep down inside, on a mere subconscious level, the readers know it as well.

Whether you write literary fiction or thrillers, whether you write fantasy, science fiction, horror, what appeals most to us is the human character. And there’s no other person in the world you know better than yourself.

All we are doing are self-portraits. As simple that. We accumulate knowledge and wisdom and power, and we get our hearts broken, and we write. We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand.

Maybe this is the big difference, the so-called rift between commercial and literary fiction. There are writers and there are storytellers.

Storytellers weave beautiful, intricate stories. They carefully build settings, masterfully sculpt characters. Their stories make use of the reader’s imagination – they make him dream. And then there’s the other category, the ones who make us feel.

Ever read a paragraph of wonderful prose? Just words that seem to melt together to form a hint of perfection? An almost divine symphony that leaves you wanting for more? One word after another slowly unveiling the pale grandeur of the human mind. That can’t be made into a movie. It’s not a visual experience, it’s not a tangible universe that’s being described.

There are those who are willing to shut out the world and rummage through their minds for memories they wish they had forgotten. The good and the bad, the tragedies, the pain, the bitter melancholy that engulfs all moments of happiness. By being alone, even in the most crowded of places, an artist is capable of understanding the world around him. All that he has gained, all that he has observed, lies behind a wall. He can jump over it and find the much needed inspiration to create art, or he can choose to write words.



403 thoughts on “The Portrait of a Writer (1)

  1. Nice post (again) Cristian. I'm with you on this.. And I think it's why even for rime fiction writers like myself, all the characters are based on people or composites of people I've known at sometime in my life. Liked this a lot, my friend

    • Thank you. I've spent more time dissecting myself as a writer than I did writing. Maybe that's why almost all of my stories are about writers. Or artists.

      In a way I'm at my best as a writer when I'm writing about writers/writing.

  2. It always amazes me, as recently as the last few days, how much of writing is just sitting and thinking. In order to truly move the reader the words must be visceral, and to do that they have to come from my gut. You nailed it when you said that you need to write about what you know. I have had some discussions in my writer's group about how hard it is for me to write a male protagonist. Perhaps it is because I have a husband, have raised two sons and was a little sister in a fraternity that I must admit how often I am baffled by the workings of the male mind. Many jokes are made about how simple men are to understand, but I have found the opposite to be true. The men in my life have deep feelings but rarely express them, so I have no idea if what they are experiencing is the same as what I feel.

    It also helps me in my writing to visualize people that I know when I am writing, even if my character is not exactly like them. If I can see them in my mind's eye, see their facial expressions and in particular their eyes, then it helps me to write a picture the reader can see. Am I successful? I don't know yet. I hope so.

  3. I believe it was hemingway who said in order to write about life, first you must live it. This has come to mean something a bit different with the internet and being able to read stores, but the emotional connection to an "experience" Hemmingway advocates still stays the same. I may have not been to the vietnam war but if I am motivated enough and attached enough emotionally I can make it real and the truth will show in my emotion. Great post!

  4. Exactly…I do both! I love painting in peoples brains…but I can't put it down without living the emotion raw and gritty inside as I do it…people wll see their own, but it is a variation of what I really lived. This is a spectacular explaination of how to write well. Bravo!

  5. Excellent post!!! I completely agree…I have often felt like my words are a bit too simple, obvious and perhaps too undisguised to be poetry…but you know the truth is, they are my words, this is how they come to me, and they are by no way perfect but they remain authentic. I have tried to write like some writers I have read or come accross on wordpress…major fail. I enjoyed reading this post!!!

  6. Your quote, "it is easy to write verses out of nothing but the word" rings so true to me. There are times when a well-written story feels hollow. So I work to avoid the hollowness that I see in others. One of my teachers in my writing program once told me that my stories proceed from light to dark, fooling the reader into thinking they're reading a comedy when, in fact, the story is really a tragedy. I think that's how my psyche works. I can't allow myself to start with the tragic; I have to break through the denial and get there gradually. Similar to Freud's talk therapy. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  7. I appreciate your words of wisdom. They are inspiration to a writer who truly feels afraid to share the truth. Perhaps I can sit down with a pen and let something painful happen. Thank you.

  8. So true and so well said, thank you. I was once told that “we right not what we know, but to find out what we know” to that I can only add that we also writ to find out who we are and what is our place in the world.

  9. I loved your essay here. Very well written. And so full of truth. Even in writing fiction there is a need to know all one can know about the their subject and characters to make them convincing to the reader. In writing literary prose, I believe it is most important to have a message that will not be easily forgotten, but resonate in one's heart and mind, long after its read for it to have a powerful impact. I think the old writers like Tolstoy and Hemingway wrote truly from their heart, then created masterfully with words, a message not easily forgotten.

  10. Thanks, Cristian. I like what you said about being true and writing what is real. If you force it, I think people will see through that. Maybe it's why writers get stuck in a story and can't go beyond….because they are not being true to their characters. Just had that thought.

  11. Reblogged this on Jade M.Wong and commented:
    I usually never reblog a post. This is a first. But this post is filled with so much wisdom, advice, and bare honest truth, that I have to share with everyone that I can. Personally, as a young writer still trying to figure out exactly what it means to be a writer, I found this post speaking to me, and making sense (which is rare). For all you aspiring writers out there, and all you established writers and all you in between! I hope this post helps you understand a little bit more The Portrait of a Writer.

    "Because no matter how great of a story we can tell, it won't matter unless we actually tell it."

  12. So true, all of it! It's funny, as a teenager you think you understand so much when you really don't, and all you're doing is throwing words out that aren't fully understood– but the feeling of knowing was so powerful then. I almost miss it.

  13. Pingback: Writing about Writing « Grobe-Trotter

  14. Hi Christian, you expressed your ideas very eloquently. I'm looking forward to read more from you. Keep writing the way you do.

    The best thing I like about your blog is that it's full of valuable info and the fact that you so generously share your knowledge. :)

  15. Brilliant! Transcendent, poignant, witty– everything a good essay need-be. Too many artists– of all mediums– are guilty of building walls with their art. And learning to let spectators, critics and admirers in is harder than the creation itself. You caught that perfectly.

  16. So I got sucked into those Versatile Blogger Awards and nominated you on my blog, feel free to check it out or ignore, I just like taking the chance to share blogs I enjoy reading, like yours!

  17. Cristian: Your recent series of posts on publishing/writing have been superb. I've been taking notes. It's time for me to close out the draft of my first book. I've been delaying the conclusion for months now. Thanks!

  18. Wow! What a powerful post. Just reading this I could feel something – feel my inner writer flinch and relax. My first time to this blog, I wasn't expecting to read something so, well… so well written~

    "All we are doing are self-portraits. As simple that. We accumulate knowledge and wisdom and power, and we get our hearts broken, and we write. We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand."

    Yes oh yes oh yes oh yes! We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand. That, my friend, is quotable.

    I love it!

  19. I think we are always creating portraits of the people we know, and self-portraits of ourselves in whatever we write. Sometimes the self-portraits are uncomfortable when we reveal the darker and less pleasant sides of ourselves in our characters too. Yet if we didn't recognise those elements in ourselves, how would we ever be able to understand and empathise with them in the people we write about? It is a fascinating journey and one I relish every day – getting to know me and then daring to place it in someone else Thank you for sharing a part of your self-portrait.

  20. Wow, I've come smack up against that wall myself. And it took me far longer than it took you to realize that I can't hide myself from my writing, that I have to expose myself to readers in order to create something anyone would bother reading. I'm still struggling with that. Good luck with your own struggle.

  21. I just read your post and feel like I am just now discovering where I fit in the realm of writing, one that you seem to live as well…you said it perfectly, "At times I've spent more times dissecting myself as a writer than I did writing…In a way I'm at my best as a writer when I'm writing about writers/writing." I could not agree more. I feel the exact same way. When I write about writing, the words just flow out of me. Yet I am constantly fumbling when I sit and try to write my novel. I'm so glad you visited my blog because it led me to yours, one that I have just fallen in love with. :) Thank you for that…

  22. someone once said that to really write from the heart you had to stop being afraid of what your parents would say.

    i prefer the henry miller approach, with honesty so (apparently) obvious that you can throw in whatever fictitious element and always keep your readers wondering.

  23. I agree completely with you on this. When you talked about the feeling the readers are about to get as well when reading, noticing if it is true or not, I was nodding here all by myself. It could be put into words almost perfectly and still there is something missing from behind it. I can feel it when writing, and I think that is the thing that arises those blockages that hinder me from actually continuing from some point. And who else I could know better than myself. I agree. I do write all about myself, though I do my best to disguise it.

    You have some great stuff in here. I will be back. Thank you.

    And thanks for visiting my realm of words, as well.

  24. Thanks for the insight, Cristian! I think that a little tiny bit of the author always creeps into any writing, no matter what it is :) I agree wholeheartedly with your distinction between writers and storytellers.

  25. "We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand." Love, love, love this! Thank you for sharing. It's why I recently made the jump to share my writing. Looking forward to reading the next in this series.

  26. Thanks Cristian, even those of us who write dodgy vampire fiction (at times) can relate…what you've said transcends genre and gets to the heart, our hearts. Brilliant!

    Now if I can just figure out how to get your posts to my inbox rather than my reader ;)

    • Ah ha! Email updates sorted!! Sometimes I think there is a reason writing is a solitary trade…people would think we were odd when they see how much we talk to ourselves, even when its with our 'inner' voice!

  27. What you said about truth in writing is very true. When I attempt to write fiction, I find too much of myself in the writing. That seems wrong to me, so then I try to weed it out and that is where I fail every single time. There should be a little bit of me in there.

  28. The memories of my teenage self say that you had her at "Hello." I can relate. I am conscious of that wall – or, more appropriately, conscious of keeping that wall down – whenever I write.

  29. Hey Christian have you ever heard of Larry Brown? He has some of the best books I've ever read and I think you would love what he has to say about writing. Let me know if you'd be interested in some rec.'s regarding his work.

  30. Thank you for this post, so beautifully written and wise. It made me think of a quote from Goethe that I have on my website:

    'Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.

    This is as splendid:

    'Storytellers weave beautiful, intricate stories. They carefully build settings, masterfully sculpt characters. Their stories make use of the reader’s imagination – they make him dream. And then there’s the other category, the ones who make us feel.'

    I am going to share this on FB and Twitter!

  31. Pingback: Everybody is a Genius « Dragon of the Scribe

  32. Oh my god! You're a god!!! :) I wish I could spit lines just like that. :) Argh! After reading this, I feel and realize just how much of a mediocre (pseudo) (frustrated) writer I am! haha.

  33. Everyone is a Genius

    But if you judged every fish by it's ability to climb a tree?

    Well, you'd feel stupid too.

    This quote is my favourite. It also took me 7 years to finally get what Einstein meant. It's incredible what we don't see in quotes that have changed lives. When we do see it though, everything changes. How we look at ourselves, how we judge others, how we perceive ourselves among so-called perfection.

    When we get that moment, that eye opener of "I get this.", changes everything of how we see the world. In that moment, you just understand what you need to do. You see yourself looking at you, like a mirror.

    Your writing was absolutely beautiful, you portrayed yourself truly with elegance and wisdom. Thank you.

    The Dragon's Scribe.

  34. This really resonates with me – so beautiful! So much of my old writing was a way to cover up my true self as well. I am definitely a writer rather than a story teller, though like everything else, it is not an either/or question :) Keep up your writing, I'd love to read more. Also, thanks for the blog visit!

  35. Great post and beautifully written. I feel like I've been taken on a wonderful journey into the heart of creating where you have to pass the road blocks along the way, but which are inevitably part of the journey. Thank you! :)

  36. "All we are doing are self-portraits." So true! As a writer trying to find the right balance between literary and commercial fiction, I've found this to be the best path. Just be yourself as you write, and the balance will find itself. Even blogging is a good way to find yourself–with an audience! Very nice post–I wish you luck with your work!

  37. I absolutely enjoyed this and am so glad you hopped on over to my blog. I might not have ever found this. Very raw, very honest, very real, very insightful. Can't wait to read more! These words challenge me as a writer to dig deeper, to break down my walls and be human with my readers so that my characters can also be human.

  38. I like this so much better, now that I don't have to struggle with the tiny font! Thank you so much for making the adjustment. Now, I can agree with you based on your content instead of just the spirit of your posts! — YUR

  39. It's the ability of the artist to be able to put it into words or capture the image in a way that can be understood by others that makes it truly art. That's what you have done here. Very inspiring. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. Thank you.

  40. "We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand."

    As an introvert, I find it difficult to finally be able to even ATTEMPT to explain myself about what I do and what moves me.

    Finding the right words can mean everything.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.


  41. I struggle as a fiction writer, but I seem to be okay at blogging. Apparently. Maybe. Who even knows. My thing is that unless I'm specifically talking about myself, my characters don't feel real to me. Not real enough to warrant my spending time with them to write their stories.

    Also–you're fabulous. And deep. I'm like…shallow mcshallowson over here. The deepest thought I've had today was about how sad it is working a 9-5 with all these fluorescent lights. That pale lighting really does make everything depressing.

  42. This makes sense to me, and it makes me feel a little less alone out there in the ether…artists/writers are alike, and a "type" – as special as we think we are.

  43. This is really beautiful insight, and it reminds me of my World Literature class last year. We read the book Sophie's World about philosophy and had many discussions about archetypes in writing and how the human psyche is related to authorship. It's very interesting!

  44. You summed up something that would have take me weeks to put into words …"We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand."

    I love this post,x

  45. Lovely essay Cristian! You know how to dig deep within the soul of an artist and reveal the hidden treasures. And you do so with amazing style and wit. I'll be back to read more of your posts! And thanks for this gem: "We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand."

  46. Pingback: The Portrait of a Writer (1) « Cristian Mihai | electricbohemian

  47. Jump Christian jump! Wow! You are a lovely writer! I look forward to reading more of your posts! I love knowing young people with such a beautiful mind! Keep going!

  48. Oh man! This is such truth!!! So many people I know tell me they are aspiring writers, and give me their work to read, and it all just sounds like they are trying to be great or deep, so it ends up being filled with cliches… I love this post. Write the truth, write yourself. THAT is good writing.

  49. Great post! You nailed it… sometimes we don't write what we feel or what's inside of us. We try to make everything so grand or perfect that it comes out sounding stuffy and fake. I'm looking forward to following your blog for more insight. Thanks for stopping by mine!

  50. Reblogged this on head in the clouds and commented:
    Wow, I came across fellow blogger Cristian Mihai today when he visited head in the clouds. What a talent! I love this post… The Portrait of a Writer. It's very well written, and I wanted to share it with my readers.

  51. In the words of the late, great writer, Nora Ephron "Everything is copy'. I write about myself. Nothing can even come close to it.

  52. This is a great post. I especially agree with the way some things just can't be translated into movies or anything else except what they are, words. Also, I just read your short story "One". It was really good, very emotional.

  53. Nice post! I started writing in elementary school and I always wrote about "exotic" places that I had never been. I grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky and dreamed of seeing the world. I've been a teacher, social worker, editor, freelance writer, and spent years as a stay-at-home mom. I've lived in the city for 40 years and I've seen the world. I published a young adult novel with Knopf in 2010. The setting? Eastern Kentucky — the place, people, and culture I know best. It pays to WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. Always good advice.

  54. Pingback: This is a beautiful sight « W.T. George

  55. That phrase is in fact one of the many fabulous sentences in this article. I like the idea as well, and through it I can see my motivation as a reader as well. Thanks to all the writers, Cristian Mihai, Fiona, etc for writing and giving the readers the opportunity to understand more easily what took them long time to understand!

  56. "The whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

    Boy, that's hard. I've been grappling with this myself lately–I started writing many years ago, and since then I've been through events that have changed me so much I scarcely know myself anymore.

    It helps that much of my old audience–my oldest friends and closest family–well, I can't get over the idea that they're unlikely to accept what I've become. I keep trying to write, but I can't get the truth out–can't quite abide the thought of showing it to any of them. If only for fear of hurting adherents of an old religion I've long since left behind.

    Any advice for getting over this situation?

  57. Great truths here, Cristian. Ernest Hemingway also talks about writing one true thing, followed by another true thing in "Moveable Feast."

    Truman Capote felt that it was OK to betray others to tell a story. Peeling back the layers of your own life is one thing, doing the same to others … Well, some truths might better be left unsaid.

  58. On the one hand, I feel like this is quite good advice, but on the other, I feel as if writing helps us figure out truths about ourselves that we would never have otherwise realized, and, oftentimes, we need to lie first to figure out that we are lying. It's paradoxical, almost. Not to say that you shouldn't aim for truth, you should, but that's no guarantee that you're going to get it. Rather, it's a slow build, and, like all writing, not really something you can sit down and automatically do, but something that you have to feel your way through overtime. Regardless, this is a lovely post.

  59. Pingback: The Portrait of a Writer (1) « My Spanish Translator

  60. Interesting. I think that writers can sometimes get hooked up on the adage, write about what you know, thinking they must therefore write about themselves. When we are young, we know little beyond ourselves but as we grow our outlook broadens and we start to observe others, try to empathise. The practice of observing and empathising over time enables the truly good writer to write about others just as, if not even more, effectively, than he/she writes about him/herself. The title of your post recalls, perhaps deliberately, a more famous portrait, The Portrait of a Lady. If Henry James had only written about himself, that book could never have been written.

  61. Wow. Great read. During my school days i used to write stuff myself and give names of imaginary authors and speak them out in declamation contests. They were exactly the stuff you spoke of here – things i did not understand but wrote and felt proud because nobody could understand either.

    I felt that stringing together fantastic words I could weave something beautiful. Now that I think of it, it seems gross because i had no idea of what i was writing or thinking.

    When i read the translated poems of Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali, i can actually experience what you call the blending of words into something tangible yet aloof. I may not understand all of what he is trying to express but i can feel that it is beautiful and it makes me happy. I guess that is the purpose of all art !

  62. This was great, Cristian, thank you. I absolutely agree, and I think this is definitely true for artists of all stripes, not just writers. You don't have anything compelling to say, to share, in whatever art form, until you're telling the truth. I did a lot of theater in high school, and it always irritated me when people would say, "Oh, I could never be an actor – I'm a terrible liar!" It took me a long time to articulate that what I objected to was the assumption that acting (good acting) had to do with anything but exposing the most truthful parts of your emotional life. Granted, as you said, it's camouflaged in another person's story, but a good actor finds the emotional truth of the fiction and then finds the parallel emotional truth in herself, and then strips all her defenses down so that THAT is what the audience sees. And if you're faking it, they always know, even if they can't say why the performance fell flat.

  63. I enjoyed your post! I think you have to write about what you know in order for your readers to believe your stories. Even science fiction and fantasy have to be grounded in reality and have to evoke some sort of emotion.

  64. That was beautiful, Cristian. And I think you're right. Before one can tell a story, any story, one must find her voice. Trying to tell a story in someone else's voice is always going to seem phoney.

  65. So very true. Thank you for this wonderful post- it was a great way to start the morning. I look forward to reading more from you :)

  66. I read what you wrote. I enjoyed it. Your writing style is fresh and quite wonderful. I wish I could write as well as you. I'm looking forward to more of your posts.

  67. As a new writer, I really appreciate this essay. Tell the truth. It's so scary to do and yet it is really all the advice we ever need in life. Your writing gives me courage and inspiration to continue on, even if I might need to fumble around in ideas of myself and the world for a while before getting to the heart of the matter.

  68. I think this is a perfect way to describe the art of writing. I have been stuck because I'm afraid to tell the truth. When I write for my eyes the words spill out and fill up page after page. When I write, knowing that others are going to read and judge me, that wall springs up. This has spelled it out so perfectly for me. When I'm having trouble writing, I'm going to remember your words and let the truth out. Thank you!

  69. I hear the truth in your writing and it certainly speaks to me. I am inspired by your writing, refreshed by your honesty and encouraged by your perspective. You are a very talented writer and I am now a follower of your blog *humble bow*

    Be well and keep writing!

  70. Masterful post. I have to say, though, my characters are not based on those I know, or have known in my life, or even any type of experience I have lived through. My characters crawl out of the depths of mind … and I simply observe; dictate what I see, hear and feel. But it is a personal journey for all of us, as no two writers are alike. Wonderful post, my friend.

  71. Great piece. I, too, have been writing since my youth. Over the years as I have matured I have also evolved as a writer. We must be able to let it all go in our writings, understanding that not everyone will get it. Yet those who do will be forever blessed. Keep pushing forward.

  72. Great piece. I, too, have been writing since my youth. Over the years as I have matured I have also evolved as a writer. We must be able to let it all go in our writings, understanding that not everyone will get it. Yet those who do will be forever blessed. Keep pushing forward.

  73. Very true. All writing is autobiographical to an extent. We write about what we know and when we don't, well, the reader knows.

  74. Great post! I believe that you right in that there is a difference between a writer and an artist. If I can't see what is written (in my mind) then the writer has not evolved to an artist. There are some of the things that I write that do that and others that do not. I guess that is my need to simply write at times. But the ART of writing should never be forgotten in an author's life. I've seen some things written that are pure "trash" to me and others that show the artist in a person. Thank you for pointing out the difference.

  75. The best writing comes from personal experiences that have been dissected and come to terms with. Even fiction is very difficult to write from you head without some previous experience.

  76. I agree completely. I think the writer's obligation, to him/herself, to readers, and to the world at large, is to tell the truth. It's very possible for a story, a character, or a situation to not be real but still be true. Thanks for reminding us all, I'm definitely keeping this in mind when I set sail toward the sunset on my boat of words.

  77. Thank you….. I have had a story rolling around in my head since my life changing event in August of 1977. I spent 3 days lying on the side of ravine, too broken up to move, searching my soul and inner strengths for a solution – wishing, wanting and waiting to be found. Chapter one is now under construction thanks to your inspiration!

  78. Actually, a disagree with you a little about this. In many ways, all writing is an act of lying. That doesn't mean it is not the truth. Many of the greatest lies are truth and many of the greatest truths are lies. I began "writing" as a child, lonely and unable communicate as effectively with others as I could with myself, so I created fantasies. My stories allowed me to go anywhere and be anyone. These were "lies," but the truth of them molded me. The "truths" were were the limits on me and on everyone–we cannot be everything we imagine ourselves to be. Only imagination can break the walls of truth.

  79. Loved this post, I think being honest and sincere in writing is tremendously important but also incredibly difficult, it's something I have been struggling with in my new book but I am trying to research areas I am not familiar with as much as possible to ensure a sense of sincerity throughout the book. I hope to find a style that is consistent in my writing – using my own voice rather than the voice I think other would like to hear. Hopefully I can bear some of the above in mind when I continue to write.

    Great job.

  80. Masterful essay! – many writers claim to write pure fiction, nothing autobiographical. I am a self-portrait writer – my characters (when I write fiction) are different aspects of myself – one of my many personalities. Or snippets of people I have known. I cannot create true fiction.

  81. Excellent writing; I'll now follow your posts.

    It's not my subject; I write nonfiction, on economics and politics and anything else that gets my fancy. But I enjoy what you've written. If you're on Facebook, where I do a lot of posting, let me know.

    If you enjoy writing about nonfiction, there's a group you might enjoy: The Intelligent Round Table, on FB. Some Mensa members (I'm one), and a lot of people I invited because they seem willing to discuss and debate matters. Only One Rule, no personal attacks on members.

    Let me know if you're interested.

    Meanwhile, I plan on following your future writings.

    Well done.

  82. I've been reading for a long time and now decided to start my hand at writing, not like you, which I believe is a gift. For those not gifted, I write, if only to put down every thing I learned from reading in my own thoughts. My best inspiration is from my garden where I learned an awful lot about how much fun you can have being green.

  83. Wow, this is so artistic! You inspire me to be an honest, dynamic, and all around better writer. I am a young writer, not only in age, but in experience. You really shed some clarity on what writing is about: realizing ideas in other people's minds, not pretending to be another person.

  84. Yes, that's the most important part – the characters have to feel real – be real, living breathing, thinking human beings (or animals, or aliens etc) you have to be able to get inside their head, find out what makes them do what they do, what is their motivation, thier history. It can be very difficult, but also really rewarding when it works well.

  85. Thanks for using your writing gift to add to the world & allowing us to see things from another's perspective. Keep inspiring us. #ROD

  86. Your entire piece is divine…But that last line about the wall, the artist, and the need to just jump…Well, that nailed it for me. It feels so much "safer" sitting on the sidelines, but safety is the kiss of death to the artist. I can't wait to read more of your writing!

  87. Actually, I have to correct myself… To some extent the goal of writing is to pretend to be another person. I guess better said you wouldn't want to manipulate the reader.

  88. It is difficult for us, as individuals, to overcome our own self-aggrandizing view of the importance of ourselves. You have achieved within yourself what most of us will never know we need to achieve.

  89. I really enoyed this, it really spoke to me because I am just starting out writing. I think that's why I like blogging so much because it is the bare, stripped me! Look forward to reading more! x

  90. Thank you. I needed to hear someone say as writers we tell the truth, the whole truth…I'd been debating a story, some details, and I know in my heart I have to put it all down there.

  91. True that, Cristian. I took a fiction writing workshop at the famous Iowa Writer's Workshop this summer and was just wringing my hands in frustration with "making it up" — fiction?! My truth is stranger than fiction (can I hear an amen?) so I think you're right: camoflage!

  92. Dear Cristian, I enjoyed looking at your blog and the truths about how a writer feels. There is beauty in the truth and in your soul.

  93. Fantastically put. The fear of writing the real truth hobbled me for years! I've only recently started to try to express things without filters. Two things jumped out at me:

    1) "All we are doing are self-portraits": so true! Our own views, predispositions, opinions, are all stamped on our every move and creation. We cannot separate ourselves from our work.

    2) "By being alone… an artist is capable of understanding the world around him": I think that the solitude is an interesting thing to point out. I'm not sure if I fully understand or agree with this point, though! I'll have to think about it!

  94. Your first paragraph really sums up everything that I have learned about writing (so far). I blog about my life, which often includes time spent as a child in the foster care system. In writing about such things, I find it all too easy to leave out all of the parts that make for an honest post. Thanks for sharing!

  95. After completing 'Moving Ahead', a non fiction political book, I intend bringing out the concepts in a fiction book. Got the idea from you that the truth can be written in fiction as well and may be it will convey ideas in a better format , the first person.

  96. Thank you for some great thoughts. I mainly write training manuals for business, but your counsel "that you have to be willing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" is just as valid in this kind of writing too. The readers, or trainees, will soon spot a fake or someone who takes shortcuts. Our end products might be quite different, but they are inspired by the same principles.

  97. Oh, so love this Christian! We speak the same language:) Although, I left my writing behind in my childhood and preteen years, and recently at 27 yrs old, I have rediscovered it. Awesome that you knew to keep writing through it all.

  98. Thanks, Cristian! You are on the right track and I love hearing it. I wish I had kept writing when I was younger…but at least I am doing it now! Have to follow your heart and tell the truth. It's what it is all about.

  99. I am too new (probably) to have my comment on such a great thought. But I feel it is indeed a great attempt to let the world know the thoughts behind the writer's words. My teacher used to say : writers are great because they write what we feel. And I guess, the best of a writer comes when he writes what he feels. It can be a great coincidence if it gels with the people's feelings as well. A good writer writes to suggest a direction to its readers, rather than being guided by what already and clearly exists.

  100. I'm really glad to see that I'm not the only person who sees art in words. Paintings are obviously art but not many people appreciate prose that way. I think I see hints of Dorian Gray in this post. The fact that an artist does best when they put themselves into their work, but (according to Wilde) lead boring lives on the outside because their whole life is art and in their art. Anyway, thank you for these thoughts.

  101. "There are those who are willing to shut out the world and rummage through their minds for memories they wish they had forgotten. The good and the bad, the tragedies, the pain, the bitter melancholy that engulfs all moments of happiness. By being alone, even in the most crowded of places, an artist is capable of understanding the world around him." Beautifully stated, poignant and true!

    Your observation that there are storytellers (who develop characters and imagery) and there are writers (who make us feel) was very encouraging and, so, very much appreciated. As a creative writing major in college, I was led to believe that the former was all there was — you either were brilliant at being a storyteller or you were told to stick to writing journals and plastering sticky notes of broken poetry all over your work cubicle for the rest of your days.

    What the professors didn't know, or at least did not share, was that the writer's voice inside your head would only grow deeper and louder with the passage of time. It never goes away and, eventually, it can no longer be contained. It has stories that must be told and it does not care how conventional wisdom defines that term. Some of my favorite books have been written in a very unconventional style, brilliant precisely because the voice was original and the emotions powerful and raw.

    So, from a writer, thank you for this article. I look forward to reading your work.

  102. Nicely done:

    "There’s this wall. And there’s the artist on the other side. He just has to jump."

    Itʻs not just the truth wall, either. Itʻs the faith wall and the fantasy wall and the spiritual wall. It all begins with us, and we just become more and more!

  103. Most of my writing is non-fiction and concerns issues with education. That seems to come fairly easy for me because of my background. I seem to be almost timid when starting a work of fiction and I realize the only way to really overcome that fear is to continue the work. I have written many short stories and fictional blogs only to publish none, zero, zilch. Maybe some day I will work up the courage to jump in and subject myself to critiques that come with any work.

  104. What a beautiful, moving piece of writing. You certainly got me thinking. I realise that I will never be a fabulous writer because I shy away from exposing myself too much. My blog, although there are words is all about giving information and sharing images. I have a sneaky feeling that I feel never be successful and well known if I am not prepared to expose myself more. We'll have to see. Thanks for your beautiful writing.

  105. Totally agree. It's the joy of writing, it is the only place where you can be true to your heart, listen what they have to say, and simply be who you really are. Great post.

  106. I love this post. It really captures my feelings as a writer. This line, in particular, spoke to me: "We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand."

    Thank you for your words!

  107. That's very true. I love to write and I recently learned we shouldn't just write words that sound good but true, meaningful words that are full of experience and expression. Your post is very inspiring.

  108. "To thine own self be true,

    And it will follow as the night the day,

    Thou thenst cannot be false to any man".

    Great article…I can relate very much.

  109. Excellent portrait. I would portrait Dante. I would Portrait Blake. I would read literary biographies. I would never stop journalling. I would dance with photography. Then I'd go back to Blake.


  110. Writing is expressing the soul, what is hidden there and ready to be set free. The best writing seems to me to be based on life experiences, so the older we get the more stories we have to tell.

  111. Like the idea that you presented without putting it into words…. here's my take on pathos that you and I share…."The best writing is an overflow of the soul captured in print."

  112. I identify with the honesty comment…you must be honest, but it's amazing how little our society values honesty. And, as an aspiring writer myself, I found your advice helpful, so thank you.

  113. Thank you for expressing what all writers know in the gut. You know when you are forcing it just to meet a deadline or reach a wordcount. Being a writer is to be unafraid. It's lonely at times but when your characters come to life it's like a grand party at which you are the center. There's really nothing like it.

  114. I love this: All we are doing are self-portraits.

    I've always wanted to write, but felt that I needed time and life experience before I could be someone with something to say that was worth reading.

  115. Christian, it's hard to find a great writer who doesn't talk about truth and honesty. Hemingway wrote, "Good writing is true writing. If a man is making a story up it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has and how conscientious he is; so that when he makes something up it is as it would truly be." In other words, you are onto something. Never stop!

  116. Cristian, I'm new to replying but not new to writing~~ and I know a great post when I see one. Very good post for all of us to live by and practice. I only wish to get so much feedback as you did on this post. I'd like to point out how, yes indeed, as we evolve so does our writing. What we wrote ten years ago is not as good as what we write today. We writers refuse to live in a box. We are out there getting experiences to broaden our inner selves; therefore broadening our writing.You showed that in your post. Also, if one wants truth, often if not always, one has to go and find it. It's our homework and research. Even if it's as simple as how it feels to ~~walk in the rain or walk bare foot on wet grass. When we are not literally writing~~we are thinking and organizing in our minds. We are awesome and want others to be also~~we direct, give insight, entertain and remind our readers on our truths. Great post~~thanks

  117. I truly enjoyed this piece. I am also in agreement that we paint a picture of ourselves as we travel this writing journey. I am inspired and encouraged to continue writing as well as reading your blog. Nice piece.

  118. Hmnnn…seems to me, writing is a craft, like say, plumbing or surgery. It can be taught and learned and put to many uses requiring varied degrees of skill. Most writers are essentially then, craftsmen, deserving respect for having mastered an ancient and valued craft.

    Among writers, a few are or come to be artists, using their craft to convey the human condition in a universal way. Unlike a craft; to fashion art appears to me, to require a specific gift, one not given to all and when given, not given in equal shares to its recipients.

    In the end, I suppose that a writer is one who writes, who is somehow driven to write.

    Thank you for the essay that led to joining your musing upon the subject…

  119. Essayists write blogs LOL! I'm hoping my blog now will fire me and help my creative juices flow enough to write something more, in quantity and breadth. I saw a little plaque that I liked: 'I would be unstoppable if I could only get started'

  120. Really liked this. Yes, I think I can see things others don't, in my opinions, essays, facts, AND fiction. I just need to believe that I am more than just a writer. Time shall tell. I agree that great storytellers create characters that you can really believe and think are real people.

  121. Leonardo Da Vinci said, "If you want to be an artist, you must make your soul like a mirror." It is this thought that I often fall back on, to reflect the world around me, to reflect without obscuring that truth with my own egocentric blemishes. Thank you for your personal statement.

  122. Thanks, Cristian. You write so naturally and authentically. A delight to read. You don't have to be young to write at a contrived & superficial level. Fear of being and expressing our true selves is perhaps even more rooted in my babyboomer age group than anywhere else. Starting to write in my 60's and learning to write social-media-appropriate responses, I keep finding myself writing like James Stewart talks in the 40's movies…. performing for some unseen crowd rather than being authentically myself. Your article is very helpful.

  123. Today, I am working on a very painful essay, and stumbling upon this post reminded me of the importance of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Thank you. Your prose is beautiful.

  124. Your post perfectly captures the motivation behind my blog. Sharing the hard truths of my story has been a long time coming and I faced this prospect with trepidation. Once I began to reveal, the trek up the mountain became a slide downward as my waterfall gushed. I discovered laying out the bare facts gives me a satisfied sigh and the warm hope I can inspire others to do the same.

  125. As a writer just starting out, I love your post. I have always wanted to write but thought I want good enough. A neighbor of mine read an article that I wrote and loved it. I now know that writing from my heart is what I am meant to do. I am looking forward to reading more of your work:)

  126. I too think when I write about writing or about what writing (and actually about reading,too) means to me, I go to a deep place. Writing is one way to make sense of a hurting world or a hurting self. It gives perspective. It lays the cool hand of healing to a fevered brow. It draws us out of ourselves to the realms of the divine, the high mountains of joy. Once there we use our voices and our words to call forth the other pilgrims, to point to the paths and the pitfalls. Thanks for your post…it touched me.

  127. Beautiful description of why we write. Love the line that says, "We write so others can absorb what took us so long to understand." That is my motivation to share my thoughts, dreams, ideas and experiences.

    Well done!

  128. The truth in words is like the unifying of thoughts on technical courage and support of breath in performing an elegant, eloquent and divine classical operatic aria. Your words do sing, Cristian, and make me listen eagerly.

  129. Thoughtful and prescient, for a writer like me who is obsessed with lifting the veil from the darker side of my own life I found this to be very honest.

  130. Well said Cristian, as we age, the truth 'ages' or develops within us. As we age the either become attached to 'truths' or we become free to discover truth. :)

  131. A few lines, or thousands…It ceases to matter when it can excite every sense and resonate the very core of our human experience. As you so deftly say, we search for this place of no fear. A place, perhaps found with wisdom and experience, where we are no longer afraid of being vulnerable. Simple and core truth, expressed beautifully….sublime! I am a vocalist first and foremost, and from my own experience it can be a single note….without words…that touches this most profound place. Thank you for your wisdom, your truth, your insight and your great gift with language!

  132. You're series is a good idea. I can understand the people, places and things that go together to make up you. Well a hint anyway. BW

  133. "All we are doing are self-portraits. As simple that." I totally agree. Everything we write has to come from us or through us, through our "filter" of the world.

  134. Excellent post, indeed. The same is true in most any public forum. In addition to being an author, I have done stand up comedy for decades, and radio, as well. The same truth principle applied, with a little wiggle room.

  135. I agree with Joan, writing is cathartic. We are often hurting and out of the pain, I write. I pray others will find themselves in my wriiting and will be encouraged that their fellow sojourner made it through the hardship and they can too. Ultimately, that healing and life will be theirs.

  136. A fine and thoughtful post, definitely resonates with me. I'd say you weren't hiding behind a wall with this post, and I look forward to reading the coming essays. d:)

  137. I would not consider myself a writer and I think that the idea of being 'a writer' is very intimidating to lots of people, myself included. I love the way you describe writers as creating self portraits, I have never ever heard it put that way but I love it.

  138. This piece resonated with me ten fold! It definitely is a case of the whole truth and in a world where lies are life, it's no mean feat.

    Thank you for posting.

  139. Poignant. I've thought about this a lot lately. Most of what I write is about my own experiences and perception of my self. Unfortunately, the bulk of my truly enlightening experiences are exceptionally disturbing and unfamiliar to most readers, so I rarely write on them. Only in poetry awash with vague references do i dare. It is incredibly frustrating because I would love to write about it, but it is doubtful that many would find it less than repugnant. Finding the proper line to walk is difficult when the greatest material you have to draw from is ultimately jarring to others. .

  140. When we as writers dare to expose our innermost selves — our hopes, our longings, our fears, our flaws — we express not only our uniqueness, but our shared humanity. Writing like this is not only cathartic for us, but for our readers. Writers, I believe, have an obligation to use their gift (painful as that may be, at times). We have the power to articulate truths many others may experience, but are unable to convey.

  141. You have a lot of insight into the world of writers….especially for one so young

    All the best for your great blog, Christian

    craig lock

    “As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says, ‘you are nothing’, I will be a writer.”

    (Hunter Thompson June 3, 1959, in a letter to Roger Richards in The Proud Highway)

    “Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”

    – Marsha Norman

  142. Awesome post Cristian, As a kid I could, and did spend a lot of saturdays with my nose stuck in some childrens book of classic literature. Some people can write a story that you can't leave and just have to read right through. Looking forward to hearing more of what you have to say.

  143. You have a picture of Tolstoy at top which, together with your post, unspooled a whole thread of memory directly related to your line of inquiry/thought.

    The most transformative thing I heard in college was an observation a teacher made about Tolstoy. It has stayed with me my entire life (twenty some years have passed) and was probably worth the ridiculous cost of my college education. It was an observation that so struck me and has so spread out and crystalized into my understanding of Art and the world, that, well, I have to bring it up here because I think you will appreciate it.

    The thing the teacher said was this: he said people read A.K. or W&P and they argue about which character "is" Tolstoy. Is Levin really Tolstoy? Is Pierre Bezukov? Which character is HIM? Which one is his wife? And so on. And the teacher said:

    "They're ALL Tolstoy."

    It was like meeting the Buddha.

    They're all Tolstoy.

    And they ARE all Tolstoy. He is in all of them and I never saw literature or the artist the same way. It was like watching the world of the self disappear for a moment. Beautiful and transformative and I feel lucky to have had that window opened through a discussion of the writer who, more than any writer I've ever read — exposes life so fundamentally and so beautifully. As your caption for him so accurately reads: "writer."

    And your lines suggested the same thing (so thank you):

    All we are doing are self-portraits. As simple [as] that. We accumulate knowledge and wisdom and power, and we get our hearts broken, and we write. We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand.

    – A.

  144. Greetings,

    Thank you for this post. I was brought to it after seeing it posted on Sabethville.

    This is a lovely post, communicating well the point that it is meaning that writers give to others, and not words. Words are merely the means of conveyance through which meaning arrives to its destination.

    All good wishes,


  145. "It took me six, seven years to figure out that you have to be willing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." I like this statement. Indeed I have found this true in my own 'vulnerable years' (beginning writing fiction around 13 years old). As I progress in years, I have found it more and more difficult to write stories. However, by focusing on just one aspect of living, i.e.looking at the spiritual realm, I have found my own 'niche', just as you have found yours in writing about writers and writing. Be encouraged!

  146. To jump? There's a pond on the other side of that wall, It's filled with so many alligators, snakes, croc's and sharks I'm afraid they're going to swallow me whole–or worse yet–bite off my hands. Typing with my nose would take too much time. :-)

    Your writing is so eloquent. It's like listening to Beethoven well-played.

  147. Wow! This is more insightful than I have ever been. I had not thought about why my characters seem to be the warrior who is left alone with his loss or the intellectual who seems to be separate from the world about him. Now I am beginning to understand, they are all pieces of me. not their experiences per say but their feelings and their reactions are.
    Thank you this is an excellent post!

  148. The best part about the write up is the idea that an artist is capable of thinking amidst of every situation. Truly well said……. An atrists world is different from others,which a layman fails to understand. But only an artist portrays the best possible picture about life and its small chapters……..

  149. This is perhaps the most insightful article I've read about writing in a long time. For the longest time, like you, I was a dumb, arrogant teenager who thought my work was the best darn thing. I thought I'd land a publishing deal the moment I finished a story.

    Then I became self-aware. What you say about writing being a self-portrait is truer than I'd like to admit, even now. I should definitely keep that in mind.

  150. Thanks, I enjoyed reading this. For some reason Kafka came to mind while reading the first paragraph, and then a provocative question frequently brought up in 'deep' discussions lately (sparked by your mentioning of an artist being alone in a crowd, observing and understanding his surroundings): "Wouldn't you rather feel creative and occasionally in the gutter (or should I say questioning the status quo?) than 'emotionally stable' yet uninspired?"

    The answer is not black and white, of course.

    Just thought I'd share these thoughts.

    All the best.

  151. An incredibly beautiful essay. It made me question myself as a writer, as an artist,as a stringer of words and a creator of I wanna be the storyteller,the artist or both?…"We write so that others may absorb what took us so long to learn". Truer words have never been spoken.

  152. Well said. I don't believe as writers we can ever create a character that doesn't in some part hold a piece of our truth or experience in life. Looking forward to reading more of your essays in the future.

  153. This post resonates with me in unbelievable ways as I struggle in my fiction to share my reality and shield myself at the same time…You paint a pathway to dissect and objectivize that struggle in order to find points of connection between the two. Moreover, I realize that the struggle is not mine alone. Thank you for inviting me here. And like Jennifer Wagner, I have fallen in love…

  154. You mean I talk to myself?! I thought I was talking to my computer. Another mystery explained! But yes, I have even been recomened to a mental health professional because of someone who saw me pacing on my balcony while using a voice recognition program. They though I had lost my mind because they did not see the computer I was telling the story to.

  155. It’s a very good post. Not that it gives new insights, but it tells us a lot of things that should have been obvious but never were. Sometimes truth is like that, eh? Read Eminescu’s pem after reading your post.

    \”Ever read a paragraph of wonderful prose? Just words that seem to melt together to form a hint of perfection? ”

    Not that I have read all the books in the world, but Wodehouse has time and again made me feel this way. You must read ‘The Heart of a Goof’ if you haven’t already. Tried doing something similar in a blog post I wrote today.

  156. It took me ages to realise this with my illustration (always been a slow learner). I am glad I have just read that. You have assured me. Now I can feel pleased with myself. Thanks. It's always nice to feel pleased with one's self. I enjoy your posts enormously.

  157. When others see truth in your mirror and feel along with you, you've become a writer. If they become angry because they don't like what they see, you've become a good writer. If you capture their spirit, you've become a great writer.

  158. Your writing is the kind of expression that I can read while I'm living in the midst of a chaotic world and it relaxes me allowing me to focus on what's really important to me—the love of the art of writing! Thank you. What a pleasure!

  159. I'm really surprised to find you started writing in your teens. My teens were pretty shallow and I wasn't very creative at all. Before my teens, I was artistic as in drawing and occasionally painting. I only felt the urge to write in my 40s or so…


  160. 'There are those who are willing to shut out the world and rummage through their minds for memories they wish they had forgotten.' That sentence should be written out on post-it notes and stuck on each aspiring writer's bedroom walls – I have just done it myself. You are right, Cristian, you are absolutely right: the truth, and nothing but the truth, is the most powerful tool we writers have. Incidentally, I published a similar article on my own site yesterday, entitled 'A Young Writer's Mind', which explores similar themes to 'The Portrait of a Writer'. Here's the link:…. If you had any thoughts on it, I would love to know them.

  161. Why did it took me this late to read this beautiful piece? Your lines resonate so much to me, so strong and meaningful. At times, writers are misunderstood. The delicate and unique compositions of us is also mostly understood by us, writers, I guess.

  162. the best part of your writing is the complete honesty with which you write. now i am going to more cautious while using the words: ‘writer’ and ‘storyteller’ :D

  163. “Storytellers weave beautiful, intricate stories. They carefully build settings, masterfully sculpt characters. Their stories make use of the reader’s imagination – they make him dream. And then there’s the other category, the ones who make us feel.” You made my heart skip a beat. Thank you.

  164. This was wonderful. It reminded me of my mother’s words: “write what you know”. She told me this when I was five, when I was twelve, when I was seventeen, when I was twenty three. Now I am (a lot older) and she’s gone, but her words reach (nag on me) me often (she is my conscience) and I know in my heart when I am writing with authenticity and when I am not. And you can tell when you are reading someone’s heart or just words. There is such a difference. Thank you! I am enjoying your blog site.

  165. Totally amazed by your writings, Cristian! This is exactly the things I need at this time in my life. I used to make paintings that didn’t belong to me, now I’m trying to be true to myself. I recognize this so much it almost moved me to tears.

  166. I don’t view fiction writing as self-portraits unless the author deliberately weaved that element into his or her work. Poetry is the closest that I think might be influenced by what was observed or experienced in the world surrounding the writer. I love your line “We write for others to absorb what took us so long to understand.”

  167. Very well said,Christian. Much of what you say resonates strongly with my perceptions, what I feel about writing. I look forward to exploring your blog and becoming further acquainted with your work.

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