Fear and Freedom

Frank McCourt once said, in an interview with Writer’s Digest Magazine:

“When I taught high school English and creative writing, I’d write two words on opposite sides of the chalkboard: Fear and Freedom. I’d tell the students that the first word, “Fear,” is something we all suffer from. But the second word, “Freedom,” we don’t all achieve.”

Every writer has a story to tell, but sometimes it has to wait until both the writer and the story are ready. To Frank McCourt, writing Angela’s Ashes was cathartic, as he put it. It took thirty years to write and it helped him face his past to achieve that freedom.

On days when I feel blocked, which lately is on most days unfortunately, I start the day by just scribbling on the page. I just let my hand move as I write about anything and everything. Sort of letting it out.


It might be about a new incident that has upset me, or an old event or memory that comes back. And I start to remember things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Julia Cameron calls this a stream of consciousness.

Heartfelt writing is honest writing, and honesty isn’t always pretty. You have to tell the bad with the pretty. Life is a gift but it rarely comes in beautifully colored packages. And if our readers cannot see what we as authors see, hear what we hear, taste what we taste, smell what we smell, and touch what we touch, then we fail as writers. That’s what Frank McCourt did with his own book Angela’s Ashes. He made his readers see, hear, smell, taste and touch the truth. He writes:

“One of the most difficult parts of writing is telling the truth. But I’d have to be honest. No one has the right to censor you. Of course I’d never intentionally hurt anyone. Recently, in an article I wrote for Rolling Stone magazine I mentioned my daughter Maggie’s past as a follower of the Grateful Dead. She threatened never to speak to me again if I didn’t kill the story. Of course I couldn’t do that. How could I let anyone have that power over me? No one has that right.”


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1 Response to Fear and Freedom

  1. susanrouchard says:

    Thank you for this ChK. How right is Franck Mc Court. Nevertheless if we write the truth about someone’s life, especially one of our family’s without consulting them first we risk annihilating their love. A love that we need to keep on writing without guilt.

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