I spent a weekend in Santa Cruz recently while on book tour. I was taking part in a literary retreat in which I had the opportunity to speak both formally and informally with readers, authors, booksellers, librarians and audiobook narrators. Some of these people have heard me speak before at previous events and were kind enough to listen to some of my stories again. Throughout the weekend, readers, booksellers and even authors commented on how honest I am. Following a talk to a group of 20-30 readers, for example, no less than six audience members approached me and expressed appreciation for my honesty in varying degrees.
At dinner the previous night an author expressed appreciation for my honesty after I shared a story about a time in high school when I was especially cruel to a teacher.
I’ve heard this sentiment before, but for whatever reason, it was out in full force during this particular weekend.
The problem was that it made no sense to me.
I also spent the weekend listening to authors speak both formally and informally, and I found each one of them to be remarkably candid and honest. I was captivated by their stories, their descriptions of the the writing process and their willingness to share the struggles and setbacks that they experienced on the road to publication.
I was impressed with each and every one, and not once did I think of them as disingenuous or insincere.
On Saturday night, after my final talk of the weekend, another person who had read my books and heard me speak before approached and once again complimented me on my honesty.
I couldn't help it. I had to ask:
“What do you mean by honesty? I’ve listened to all these authors speak all weekend long, and they all sound honest to me?”
“They are,” this person explained. “They’re all wonderful. You’re just not afraid to tell us how stupid you are.”
As much as this comment did not initially sit well with me at first, it made sense after some reflection and brought these comments regarding my honesty into a clear light.
It’s not that I am more willing to admit to how stupid I am. It’s just that I do more stupid things than most people and therefore have more that I can admit to.