On Writing And The Fear Of Being
True To Yourself

Brandon Flowers - The KillersAs a writer, you can almost always sense those moments when the “writing flame” is burning brightly, but sometimes the words still refuse to catch fire. 


It may be because you’re not being true to yourself – at the deepest level.  

Let me explain.

Recently I’ve been obsessing over a 2008 video, Human by The Killers, because it illuminates a truth that every artist, writer and musician needs to accept.

Debate has raged over the meaning of the main lyric in the song –“Are you human, or are you dancer?”  

But its meaning is perfectly clear:  Are you being entirely true to yourself, creating with all the human originality you possess? Or are you afraid to trust your own voice, and are merely an imitator, ‘dancing someone else’s steps’?


Are You Writing With Your Own Unique “Voice”?  

Seriously, think about it.  

Are you trusting your potent uniqueness when writing, or are you dazzled by the success of someone else’s work and slavishly copying it, masking your writing with their style and identity?

One Of The Biggest Creative Killers Is Trying To Be Someone Other Than Yourself As A Writer

For example, are you writing about “vampires” simply because it’s a hot book market?

If you choose that “copycat” route, a Tiger called regret awaits.  Your writing will not catch fire, and the career you desire will fail to unfold.


The solution is to create something unique that’s drawn from the deepest wells of your own interests and fascinations, and readers will immediately sense the originality.

They’ll crave more, and the only author from which it is available is you.

This is how your life-long fan readership is built.

Authenticity Is The Key To Growing Readership

There’s no question that in the early days most writers need to copy, abstract, and simulate to discover their ‘voice’.  This is perfectly normal, but in the end your own voice needs to emerge with all its unique quirkiness and power.


Think about this:

In the palliative care book “The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying”, the #1 regret expressed by people with only a few weeks to live, was they wished they’d been true to themselves.  But as they approached the end of their life, realized it was too late.

The power of your unique, innate talent will go to work for you, if you have the confidence to trust it.

Are you trusting it?

Watch the Human video by The Killers group.  It’s a beautifully filmed expression of the question we all face.  And lastly, keep writing, no matter how much you think your muse has deserted you. Writing summons the creative muse, not the other way around.

What do you think? Are you being true to yourself with your writing? Have you found your voice? It’s never easy. Please do leave a comment.

Jonathan Gunson

Article written by Jonathan Gunson

Author / Book Marketing Coach 


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  • May 1, 2014 at 10:53am

    Thank you for your insight. I’m on my eighth draft of my first novel, Unsuitable Girl. I had it assessed by a literary editor. She advised I needed keep ‘story story story’ in mind, and to keep up a fast pace throughout to catch an agent’s eye, almost suggesting it could be thrilleresque. I had written the kind of book I would like to read. It seems that due to the influence of Chick Lit, all novels now need to be fast paced.
    If I take all of this advice, I think I would be writing ‘for the market’ and I would lose my voice essentially.
    So I will use some of the advice, so expensively bought (!) and re shape and cut, but retain my voice, I hope.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 12:03pm

      Re Story – I agree. And only you will know for certain whether the essence of ‘you’ has survived, in spite of the pace and hustle.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 10:53am

    Hello Jonathan,

    Another potent post that’s definitely worth thinking about. Fortunately I don’t write while shackled by another writer’s voice/style or the latest trend. But I can relate because I did in the past. When I wrote my first manuscript, I was definitely a victim of trying to ape my favorite author’s style. I think a lot of writers can fall into that trap, particularly when we first start out. Fortunately as I developed my craft I dug myself out of that hole.

    But I never followed trends, and I still don’t. It’s silly to try to write teen dystopia novels just because it’s the ‘hot’ thing right now, or any other brand that doesn’t reflect myself as an author. To me the bottom line is simple: I write what I like to read. Anything else is a waste of time.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 12:06pm

      You said almost a year ago that you don’t ‘follow trends’. So it must be a well and truly entrenched line of thought now. Such constancy deserves congratulations.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 10:56am

    Great post, thank you!

    I agree with what you’ve said. I believe I’ve only just found my voice in the last two years, somewhat accidentally I must admit :) But there are still days when I doubt myself. I am still growing as a writer and I hope my voice becomes more distinct still in the coming years.

    AD Starrling

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 12:22pm

      AD S.
      That ‘self doubt’ you feel is the hallmark of a developing writer. Best simply keep writing – it will all come out in the wash so to speak! Push on, and do report progress.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 11:03am

    Jonathan thank you for this information.
    I am 50 years old and only recently found my own voice in writing. I write poetry, from nostalgic, to inspirational and as much as I possibly can in many categories. I found that the more I wrote, the more the demand and the more the readers complimented the heartfelt way in which I seem to write. But after reading this posting I realise the demand from the readers way outstrips my ability to keep up with their ferocious appetites, I seem to have lost my way over the past few weeks. As you put it, my flame does not seem to be burning now.
    I opened a poetry page at Facebook, John Kavanagh Poetry.

  • May 1, 2014 at 11:05am

    Hi Jonathan
    Great advice. It may not be true for more experienced writers, but in my case I have been avoiding what I ‘should’ be writing. This has given me the push I needed. Today I read this poem by Marianne Williamson, uncanny timing?

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear
    is that we are powerful beyond measure.
    It is our light, not our darkness,
    that most frightens us.
    We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
    talented and fabulous?

    Jason in Cambridge

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 12:13pm

      ‘Uncanny’ is the word. The Williamson quote certainly mirrors the sentiments of this post.
      ~ Jonathan

    • May 8, 2014 at 3:08am

      Thank you for this poem. This is EXACTLY what I feel. You just found the words for it.

  • May 1, 2014 at 11:19am

    Well put, Jonathan, just as I’ve come to expect from you. The point you make about developing one’s own unique style and subject matter goes much deeper than our fellow writers might think, and it’s true that readers have different tastes. Personally I wouldn’t dream of touching a vampire story and even an experienced writer can go astray by imitating the work of another. Hope this doesn’t blow up in my face, but in the Acknowledgments at the end of ‘The Tailor of Panama,’ the author writes, ‘Without Graham Greene this book would never have come about. After Greene’s ‘Our Man in Havana,’ the notion of an intelligence fabricator would not leave me alone.’ Trouble is, Le Carré isn’t Greene, and I was bored out of my mind by his derivative tailor cum fabricator. Best regards from out here in Cape Town.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 12:10pm

      Le Carré certainly isn’t Greene, but he’d also have been the first to say so.
      And here’s Neil Gaiman’s view on Vampire books – from 2009:
      “Vampires go in waves, and it kind of feels like we’re now finishing a vampire wave, because at the point where they’re everywhere it’s probably time to go back underground for another 20 years or another 25 years…”
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 11:50am

    Greetings Jonathon,
    Your information is always right on target. It takes years of experience and hard work to find one’s writing voice. One of the writers in my critique group has a unique voice in her memoir. She says she writes “from the depths of her being and with passion.” However, she still “dances” to the audience with restraint when writing conflict. Why? Fear of judgment from family and friends. That is why I write fiction. I can get into my character’s head and write without fear. When writing a memoir, I wonder if it can free the writer’s voice if it is labeled “creative non-fiction” or “fiction” inspired by real events?
    What are your thoughts on freeing that tiger within when writing true to life stories? Do you agree that the “genre label” helps the writer find their authenticity?

    Kaye Linden

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 12:00pm

      An amusing gay friend of mine wrote an intriguing memoir about his extraordinary life last year. He was associated with the Disney company and entertainment. He didn’t hold back anything, but on publication terrified what his family would think.
      To his complete surprise, they were enraptured with his book, totally supportive, loved it to bits without single dissenting voice.
      So it pays to look on the bright side. As Mark Twain said “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
      ~ Jonathan
      P.S. Article re ‘Fear of Judgement’ (Which you may already have seen):
      P.P.S. When it comes to ‘finding authenticity’, I don’t think it makes not a whit of difference whether one is writing genre fiction or literature. It’s matter of writing to the real muse. (Never easy, but I find that if I sit and work like a hack, after a while the muse (who has ignored me initially) grows curious, sidles up and then joins in.)

  • May 1, 2014 at 12:22pm

    Twenty-five years ago, I wrote my first book (non-fiction, academic) and was very pleased with the response. It remains on the shelves of academic libraries across the USA along with my second (which came ten years later).
    About four years ago, I was challenged to put the many stories I had in my head on paper as novels. I tried several different methods but was totally unhappy. Then my wife said, “Just write what you want, not the way you think others want you to.”
    As a result, my first novel was published in January 2014 titled The Reluctant General. The response has been wonderful.
    Now, I’m nearly ready with two more and have five more outlined and ready to write. Being true to myself (writing the way I want) makes me feel good about what I write and therefore proud of the finished product. All I’m saying is that there are plenty of us out here who say “amen!” to what you have written here. It is truly a major key and a major fear. I experienced it; but I’m so happy I pushed past those fears to write my way.
    Now, lest someone misunderstand what you and I are saying, all that comes before several serious rewrites and a couple of excellent editors who can help to shape, mold, and retain your original voice into a marketable piece without mistakes and (as in my case) those horrible euphemisms that make no sense to other people.
    Keep up the good work, Jonathan. I always love reading your articles, even though this is the first one to which I’ve responded.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 12:28pm

      Almost a blog post in its own right Sir. Two points to make:
      1. Re your wife: “Just write what you want, not the way you think others want you to.” Pure gold. (Both her and the advice.)
      2. Editors are Gods.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 12:42pm

    Great post. I like my writing voice. I’ve never tried to style myself on any other writer. In fact, I’ve always fought to be ‘me’ in my life in general.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 1:09pm

      Your ‘Murder Mystery Scripts for fundraising’ a unique and clever idea.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 12:52pm

    Hi There.,
    Being 83 yr. old now, I like to just get on with what I have to do. I do not tend to follow others footsteps, although the odd hint sometimes helps. When I sit at my computer, and all is quiet. I pull up the story I am working on and, sit quietly for a moment and then as soon as my fingers touch the keyboard, I am away. I do not follow or copy any one else’s work, I just let the words flow. It’s me talking as I normally talk. I don’t stand on ceremony.
    If I suddenly hit a blank wall, I take a rest and don’t come back until I am ready. I have been writing at least one ebook per month so far, now approx thirty thousand words or slightly more. When I reach this goal, I am tired and ready to finish the story. One day when I can afford to I hope to be able to put a few of my books together as one and have it printed, as a full book of short stories.
    I tend to pick up ideas from my past life in the UK and there is usually a little truth mixed into my Fiction Stories. I have found Kindle select method of sales is helping me. I have also gained a great amount of friends on Facebook Media, and now opened my own Fans of Grannie’s Fan page, and Grandma’s chat page ( for the elderly). When people chat they give you ideas without realizing it.

    Best Wishes

    Ebook author and self publisher http://www.amazon.com
    and http://www.smashwords.com

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 1:12pm

      Intriguing to hear of your chat page giving you ideas. And you write a book every month? Even for shorter stories, that is a prodigious output. #envy
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 1:10pm

    great post as usual, and this was something I worried about in the beginning. I have only just started to be a writer, before I was just the ‘oily rag’ that helped my sister Anita to be published. I knew I was a pretty good editor/proofreader, but what kind of writer would I be?
    I still don’t know if I can make the grade, only time will tell, right? But I am enjoying the process and have tried to maintain my own voice throughout. It was confusing in the beginning, but as I get near to the end I can honestly say I will be doing it again…

  • May 1, 2014 at 1:42pm

    You were speaking directly to me just with the title of this one. I’m quite certain this is my biggest hurdle. In my memoir, it was fairly easy. I was going through a health crisis, and I found it easy to be vulnerable, for my faith to be shaky at times, etc. But in my fiction I am constantly hitting this wall about who I really want to be (or who I just AM, as you’re saying here) and who I think other people want me to be. I don’t even know that I can clearly define each of those, because then maybe I could sort it out easier. The only thing I know is to keep writing and try to get more brave, and hopefully the real me will eventually break through?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 10:17pm

      The only way forward is through.
      In most cases, the solution is to keep writing. In my own case I find that if I sit and work like a hack, after a while the muse, cat like (and who’s ignored me initially) grows curious, sidles up and then joins in. (I said this in another comment, but applies here as well.)
      ~ Jonathan

      • May 5, 2014 at 1:25pm

        Love it. :) Thanks for replying.

  • Anthony says:
    May 1, 2014 at 2:47pm

    It’s the courage needed to take hold of that voice and go with it. Thanks for reminding me to trust myself as I dig deep into my imagination, find those words and images, find the true shape, and, well, trust, trust, trust myself. I don’t mean to sound “spiritual,” but the writing often seems to be led by some kind of benign, even helpful, spirit. So be it, and thank you for the wisdom.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 10:22pm

      Trust and inspiration yes, but also that pesky ‘99% perspiration’.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 2:54pm

    Hi Jonathan. Yes, I admit that this one has touched a nerve. This has been a lifelong struggle for me. A couple of thoughts come to mind.

    One is that, according to Robert Greene in his book of this title, “Mastery” of anything cannot be gained without the help of a mentor (except in certain cases), and I’m thinking that mentors are not common in the writing world, partly because it is a solitary activity. Certainly I haven’t had anyone that I would call a mentor, and I suspect many others have to go it alone, with no other or better strategy than to imitate those writers you admire (or envy) the most.

    Another thought is a memory of the epigraph of one of Hermann Hesse’s novels (can’t remember which), which went something like this: “All I wanted was to be myself; why was that so very difficult?” It’s an echo of the motto over the entrance to the oracle of Delphi: “know thyself.” It sounds easy, but . . .

    Thanks for this encouraging post.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 10:03pm

      An editor can fulfil the mentor role – even an agent sometimes. And your quote touches the soul for sure ” “All I wanted was to be myself; why was that so very difficult?”
      Remarkable, and thank you.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 3:46pm

    I think that’s exactly what I’m grappling with in my second novel. The first one practically wrote itself, (except for satisfying the editors). But this one hasn’t been so easy. I seem to be missing the point, no matter how much I plan and outline and plot. Hopefully your post will help me find it.
    Thanks, K

  • May 1, 2014 at 4:21pm

    Great post, Jonathan! I’ve just finished my fourth novel, and have collaborated with my award winning author wife, Lorraine Theall, on a colllection of memoirs and short stories and poems. I find that being able to find my own voice gets easier with each book or story. I have overcome the fear of angering or offending family and/or friends, whose experiences and interactions with me are often the fodder for my fiction. My characters are all composites of people I know or have known, and at age 82, I am having a ball! Love your blog! My web site http://www.jamesorytheall.com is currently in maintenance mode, but should be up-to-date and running in a very short time. Keep coming with the advice. You are a major help!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 10:24pm

      “I find that being able to find my own voice gets easier with each book or story…” Just so.
      Let me know when your website is live again.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 4:52pm

    How amazing, Jonathan! – I have just completed a novel (Drumbeats) which is, I guess, a rite of passage story about a girl who has to learn how to be “true to herself” and not live the life her family has mapped out for her. I see resonances of this in what you say about writing. As regards my own writing, this was the fundamental reason I stopped writing academic works (part of my job!) and began the much more satisfying work of writing creatively without being constrained by the academic format of research reports and papers. It is so much more liberating, but I had to find my own “voice” which wasn’t easy after many years of writing in a completely different way – an awful lot of “telling not showing” happened which I needed to address! Sometimes you need to write, write, write in order to “feel” for the style you’re most comfortable with. My reading is very wide so I couldn’t use that as a guide, but found that re-thinking my novel, its focus, structure and style, and reshaping and rewriting it, moved my journey on to the discovery of my own style and “voice” – which I think I’m now clearer about. My editor did an initial review of the first couple of chapters and questioned quite a lot, which made me think again; she has just returned the review of the full ms and has hardly anything to question and has complimented me on the strength of the “voice” – so now I’m thrilled to bits! (sorry to go on a bit, but I’m delighted with the critique – happy moment!). Thanks again, Jonathan, for your positive and supportive blogs: I love them.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 10:44pm

      You seem to have led an exotic life – giving you plenty on which to draw. e.g. I see on your Facebook page you lived in Cape Coast, Ghana at one stage.
      ~ Jonathan

      • May 2, 2014 at 12:19pm

        Oh, goodness “exotic life”, Jonathan – never thought of it in that way before! But yes, I lived in Cape Coast, Ghana – and thanks for looking at my facebook page! My new novel which hopefully will be out in June/July is set in Ghana, called Drumbeats, and owes much to my time there. Yes, I agree that life’s experiences provide lots of material for writing. Hopefully I’m getting better at it – I think I mean both writing and life! Anyway, I always read your blogs although I don’t always respond, and I find them very helpful and supportive. Many thanks, Jonathan.

  • May 1, 2014 at 5:23pm

    I agree that finding your voice is the first crucial step to being a good writer. After that, comes the more difficult battle to STAY true to your voice. Some days it’s a struggle to decipher between the useful advice (meant to improve your storytelling technique) and the less helpful, opinionated advice (which can easily undermine your confidence in your own uniqueness). I enjoyed this article very much. But I remember hearing this same advice a different way: don’t try to be the next “someone else,” be the first “you.” Or how I like to phrase it: I don’t want to be the next Stephen King, I want to be the first Devon Drake.

  • Tracey Delaney says:
    May 1, 2014 at 6:14pm

    My Goodness, Jonathan, yet another post that strikes hard and true. I, too, have been struck by the affliction of ‘copying’ another’s style, completely oblivious to that fact until I start reading through and editing my MS. And I spot it by finding something ‘familiar yet distant’ with the work which differs from the deep familiarity with your own words and voice.

    Thank you for the reminder that a lot of novice writers need – your voice is what makes you unique.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 11:07pm

      We’re all unconsciously ‘influenced’ to a greater or lesser extent.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 6:28pm

    Dear Jonathan,

    Good advice.
    I think it is absolutely vital to write about something that you are passionate about and for which you are the best voice (like with your own best seller!)
    I have attempted writing earlier in my life and didn’t get very far. Having reached 40 I find ideas for which I am the best voice are flowing incredibly rapidly. I feel lucky that I am certain that I am not copying any author styles (being influenced, inevitably and subconsciously of course). I think I would definitely have been susceptible to following trends and copying styles when I was younger.

    Keep up the good work.


    Michael Carter.

  • May 1, 2014 at 9:03pm

    Hi Jonathon,
    Great post. What if your voice scares the bejeebers out of you? I regularly write and illustrate picture books but definitely have a bookshelf of novels in me. I figured the novels would fall into the chick-lit category because if something weird is going to happen it will happen to me. When I sat down to write … from the very first sentence my fingers produced a very dark urban fantasy that had me gasping, squirming, and generally feeling uncomfortable. So far removed from what I thought would be my voice and so different from ‘Me’. It is still in first draft (possibly very badly written) and I feel very anxious about going back to it and keep pushing it aside.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 11:12pm

      An editor may help – even at this early stage. If you don’t have one in mind, this may help: http://voxiemedia.com/how-to-find-a-book-editor/
      re “Dark”; If that is where your voice is taking you, then follow. The darker the better if that is how it is coming to you. You are not allowed to judge yourself while writing – as Steve Pressfield would say… “The inner critic? His ass is not permitted in the building.”
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 1, 2014 at 9:07pm

    Hi Jonathan,

    Excellent post, excellent song. It’s not usually in the writing, but in the editing where I second-guess my words and risk falling prey to What-Will-Other-People-Think. There was a time when I was much more prone to cringing at blatant honesty and raw emotion in my characters, and I would immediately water down the fireworks so as to soften their impact. As I get older, I feel less pressure to suppress the passion in my characters … or maybe I’m just getting better at putting their emotions in print.

    We are Dancer in Human skin. When writing, as with most other aspects of life, it’s what is on the inside that counts. :)

    ~ ACTownsend

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 1, 2014 at 10:27pm

      Re “Dancer in human skin.” Another commentator feels that writers go around exposed (without their skin) in order to be sensitive to life experience.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Catie says:
    May 2, 2014 at 12:57am

    Since one of my interests is also drawing/painting, I always find parallels between learning to draw and learning to write. Today, lots of kids start drawing by copying generic anime because it’s the latest craze (I’ve started by copying cartoons and comics myself), but those that really grow and develop as artists quickly move beyond the generic anime and develop their own unique style (which, mind you, can still be anime in type, just not the generic kind – there are hundreds of anime styles out there, created by artists who have developed their own unique style of drawing). With those artists, it takes just one look at the drawing to recognize who drew it. If you can get to that stage, where people can recognize your work just by looking at it, without knowing beforehand who drew it, then you know that you have successfully developed your own unique style, your true self. That’s something a true artist strives for. The ones that don’t grow spend years spewing the most generic anime drawings you can imagine, melting into the crowd of other generic anime, never standing out, never making something different, something unique, something that will get them noticed and rise them above all the generic, identical pieces of work.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 2, 2014 at 1:20am

      A not unfamiliar situation. I worked in a design studio for years. One of the artists there slaved away in his free hours, producing highly derivative scenes – almost entirely intellectual renditions of reality with no personality at all. 25 years later he’s still doing it and has never succeeded. Almost frightening to see the dogged determination to avoid himself.
      Originality is pivotal for a writer.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Donna says:
    May 2, 2014 at 1:02am

    Hi Jonathan,
    I’m scared that the real me wont be enough. I’ve had things happen in my life that have shaped me as an individual. A year and a half ago I changed my life and started writing full time and although i wrote a young adult novel – nothing has come of it. Since then I have rewritten and edited 10 times or so. This year I’ve been more despondent than ever. I’ve written short stories but it’s not fulfilling unless I can get something published. Sometimes I feel like I have no purpose. Without feedback, this job is difficult and yet it’s the only thing I’m really good at. In a slump.

  • May 2, 2014 at 2:22am

    Your post reaffirms what I know to be true. When I reach deep inside, my writing just clips along and has “verve” according to my editor. It’s hard to write about topics that you’re not comfortable discussing, but I’ve found that if I really dig and put on my writer’s hat instead of being self-conscious, that’s when my work shines. Great post!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 2, 2014 at 10:11am

      I will make an attempt to catch one of your stories on Life Rattle Radio. You have an interesting life history – India, then Canada. Plenty on which to draw.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Dominic McKevitt says:
    May 2, 2014 at 3:09am

    Hi Jonathan
    Thank you for this most valuable post.
    I cannot copy anyone else in their writing style or subject matter although my work is often referred to very successful contemporary writers that I find most flattering.
    I write about what affects me deeply, life, love, death, adventure, and experiences, exactly what I know about so this is always my own unique take and no one else’s.
    I was once told write about what you know, what you are passionate about then the true unique self will come alive on the page. This also goes for fiction in all of its form and when you create a person place or thing, it is entirely yours and you will introduce the reader to this creation therefore it is not a copy of another writer’s work.
    Thank you Jonathan for all your great inspirational posts which are truly appreciated.
    Dominic McKevitt

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 2, 2014 at 10:19am

      Writing about what you “know” and for which you have a passion is highly diverting and avoids any form of artifice, allowing the real voice to emerge… eventually. I see you’re from Ireland. I was there a coupe of years ago and traveled around the “ring” in the South. Reminds me: Here’s the secret of writing from one of your compatriots: http://bestsellerlabs.com/maeve-binchy-her-writing-secrets-interview/
      ~ Jonathan

  • Donna says:
    May 2, 2014 at 10:13am

    Hi Jonathon.
    In response to ‘on-writing-and-fear’, I find life-writing in my own voice and in first person so much easier and stronger than trying to write, practically forcing myself to write, fiction and third person. The trouble is, when I attempt fiction in first person people automatically assume I’m writing about myself. When I try third person I end up searching for words and expressions I wouldn’t normally use, get bogged down and give up. Getting the narrative voice right is key! Still trying. Experimenting.
    Best wishes,


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 2, 2014 at 10:21am

      From what you describe you’re fully aware of all the parameters. You’ll get there.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 2, 2014 at 2:03pm

    I believe that some self-doubt is good and healthy, but if you listen to others on how to write and what to write, you will come up with a cookie cutter story. A lot of editors are young and they want excitement and they want four letter words. If you don’t write from your heart and what you know, you’ll be stuck on the same story forever. I have written for three small press publishers and for several year I wrote my own column in a paper affiliated with the Chicago Sun. Anyway, I was told by one author at a conference that I’d never make it, because I don’t write an outline first. That was 23 novels ago. I listen to my readership and it feels good to hear when they say they can’t put my books down. So, yes, continue to doubt yourself to a certain extent, but not so much that you get stuck in a morass. You, Jonathan are one of the rare people who try to help authors and I deeply appreciate you.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 2, 2014 at 10:49pm

      Quote: ” … I was told by one author at a conference that I’d never make it, because I don’t write an outline first. That was 23 novels ago…” Revenge is sweet.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 2, 2014 at 8:54pm

    Love this post, and the song, and I have a different interpretation.

    I choose dancer, not because I am following someone else, but because I think of dance as finding our true voice. Dancing, as in one with the universe. Dancing, as the dance of life.

    Doesn’t change the message, except I choose dance over human. Maybe it is because that is what I was before being a writer, and it feels as if now I simply dance and choreograph with words instead of movement.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 2, 2014 at 10:54pm

      Being “human” as described in the song is the ultimate dance. Semantics is a wonderful game.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 2, 2014 at 10:25pm

    Another excellent post, Jonathan.

    In my experience, attempting to stifle my inner voice always leads to a severe bout of writerly constipation.

    When I was a newbie at my fabulous online critique group, I foolishly attempted to apply every single piece of critique advice I received to my MS. As you can imagine, the result was truly awful. I was so miserable, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to write.

    Nowadays, I listen to everything, but I let my inner editor make the final decision.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 4, 2014 at 4:27am

      NJ L
      It’s clear to me from what you say here that you’ve broken though. Good days ahead.

  • May 4, 2014 at 4:39am

    Great post, Jonathan.

    I actually was doing this, even though I didn’t realize it, but I’ve recently got my voice back. :-)

    Thanks so much for sharing!


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 4, 2014 at 5:11am

      ’tis said there are none so blind as those who will not see, except… now you do. Plus, I agree with the rationale you give on your blog about why you like writing for YA.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 5, 2014 at 7:22am

    Another great post Jonathan. It reminds me of the story “David vs. Goliath”. The shepherd boy shunned the king’s armor in favor of his rod and five pebbles.

    I realize not everyone believes this narrative but for me it highlights the importance of walking in your own shoes.

    Malcolm Gladwell paints a fascinating picture of what the battle would have been like in his book of the same name. I didn’t know a rock slung by an expert ‘slinger’ could put a dent in one’s forehead…that just goes to show that with enough mastery being true to yourself is usually enough.

    Have a great day.

  • May 6, 2014 at 6:54am

    HI, Jonathan,
    Liked the post. Plenty to think about. Keep ’em coming.

    P.S. Just finished your Blogging course. What an eye opener. Not often that I’ve enjoyed finding out I have been doing everything wrong! Well, not everything, but close. Looking forward to getting on the right track. Thanks.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 6, 2014 at 8:09am

      Hi Steve
      Thank you. More than happy the “blogging” course helped you. Keep in touch. My plan for Bestseller Labs from now on is to blog direct tips on how to sell more books.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 7, 2014 at 7:29pm

    Everything in this article rings very true for me. When I began my first book, I was reluctant to include the things I truly wanted to because I was afraid it would be too offbeat. I am a YA fantasy author, and my books take place in NYC, but I really wanted to set the story in the 1980s with music from the era weaved throughout the narrative. Eventually, I decided that I would just be true to the story that I had in my heart/brain and I wrote it how I wanted to. Thank you for this article, there is nothing like staying true to your own writing voice/concepts and having people tell you they love your story.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 13, 2014 at 10:41pm

      All true as true, and as in your case,we have to experience it ourselves to actually grasp the magnitude of this.
      PS. The cartoon of you on your “Official Author Site” is sensational!
      ~ Jonathan

  • Claudette says:
    May 27, 2014 at 8:29pm

    Excellent article, Jonathan. Authenticity is something so difficult to achieve in today’s world, or so it seems. Conformity in all aspects of our lives is crammed down our throats and into our psyches in more subtle ways each day. It almost makes a person wonder if creating a hermitage for oneself is the only answer for the problem.

    For myself, I strive to become more myself each day, to assume a more genuine presence than the day before. It’s tough when the constant message is that in order to achieve and succeed, one must follow certain guidelines.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to really succeed is to first create your own definition of that concept and nail it to the bottoms of your feet so that you cannot walk any other path toward your goal. Only the individual can choose the appropriate definition for her/himself.

    I’m so glad that you shared this post, my friend. It strikes at the heart of why we do what we do. Happy writing.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 28, 2014 at 1:17am

      One of the central dilemmas of being human wouldn’t you say? Society tends to protect itself by enforcing conformity – summed up by those attempting to be ‘cool’ which of course is an obsession with ‘belonging’ or conforming to the main ‘hip’ style. Breaking out of this requires courage, and I have endless admiration for those who do. See: Picasso / Rudolph Nureyev / Ghandi / Madam Curie / Beatrix Potter / Claudette / et al.
      ~ Jonathan