Guest Blog by author, Rick Lenz

‘Delete’ Clever ~~ Make Room for Honesty ~~ by Rick Lenz, author

When I was a young writer, I made my living as an actor. During the first half of my acting career things went well. I tried to be as honest as I could in my work, but when I was offstage or off-camera, it seemed to me the best thing I could do was to be “cool.”

Between jobs, I worked hard on my notion of who I was and wanted to be. Without knowing that’s what I was doing, I convinced myself I had an image to build and protect. Like many young professionals, I thought it was important to be clever. If I said a cynical thing and got an appreciative laugh that was the kind of thing I wanted to learn to say more often. I was “hip.” On the surface anyway, there were very few things cooler than being hip.

The word isn’t used much anymore, but I desperately wanted to be and stay hip. When you’re young, people often seem to react positively when something cutting, or biting, or just plain mean is said at someone else’s expense. Often, I’m afraid, that’s a fair definition of what “hip” was at the time and “cool” often is now.

Those things wear thin very fast. A constant onslaught of clever soon gets to be something you want to turn away from. Clever too often turns out to be cruel.

Meanwhile, my writing, which became more and more important to me, suffered from the fact that I’d spent much of my adult life trying to invent my cool and clever self, the artificial me. It turned out that persona—for me—was not only an uncomfortable place to live, it was an alienating way to be a writer—and a writer cannot afford to alienate his reader. For years my writing suffered from that voice.

If you’re cruel, cruelty is what will come back to you. The wisest voices of the ages have not said, “Judge not lest God will judge you.” They’ve said, “Judge not that you be not judged.”

It’s not some outer power that’s going to come after you, seeking retribution. It’s you yourself, who will unconsciously (in most cases) know for sure that payback is coming your way. And it will get you and it will pay you back. In kind.

It took me far too long to learn that the most important thing I could do toward becoming a good writer was to be Don Quixote “In search of honor.” One of the synonyms my dictionary gives for “honor” is “mark of respect.”

It’s a wonderful thing to give your reader a “mark of respect.”

That does not mean that you can’t be witty or funny or even clever when that’s called for. But underneath whatever it is, readers deserve one thing from us beyond our professional due diligence: our respect.

Come back for my Interview with Rick in March ’19


MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and February:  Patrick Canning.
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