Balls. They might be something between your legs for some, but really the kind I’m writing about are between your ears.
Writing from the heart takes balls. To be bold, to be vulnerable, to reveal in the face of potential scrutiny and judgment…that’s a hell of a task. But trust me, as someone who has been performing personally revealing non-fictional stories for the past four years in front of packed houses, the payoff is incalculable.
But don’t take my word for it. As the creator of Essay Fiesta and Guts & Glory, I’ve had the absolute fucking HONOR to host some of the boldest literary badasses the Windy City has to offer. Gutsy gals like Dana Norris, Sarah Hollenbeck, Brooke Allen, Jen Bosworth, Janna Sobel, and gutsy guys such as Ian Belknap, J.W. Basilo, Jason Economus and Don Hall.
I have seen audiences moved to tears. Be not mistaken. These are not tears of pity. Pity is judgment. These are tears of resonance, of relation. The audience feels what the author conveys, moved by a memory of a similar experience, of a similar moment in which they too felt perhaps crushed by the weight of the world or overcome by emotional pain.
And I have seen audiences moved to tears of laughter and joy. Just as they share in the pain, they share in the triumph over adversity, in the reconciliation the author has with life. The best gutsy performers don’t blame. They accept, and they come out stronger because of it. Triumph over suffering is a story we crave constantly.
Being gutsy is not easy. Just as jumping off the high dive wasn’t something most of us were prepared to do the first time we went to the pool, edging toward the stories we most fear can feel terrifying. But this is where the stakes are highest and where the rewards are greatest. By honing that courage, you–we–can overcome the stories that may have trapped us in the past, that have held us under their spell, beneath their thumb.
We can own the narrative. And that is what being gutsy is all about.
If you want to learn how to write the Guts & Glory way, take my six-week class at StoryStudio Chicago, Writing the Unspeakable.