Is it hard to be honest when telling embarrassing stories?
Joel Meares is the author of We’re All Going to Die (Especially Me). We asked him whether he found it hard to be honest when telling embarrassing stories. Here’s his response.
One of the first people who read my book was Annabel Crabb, and her response scared the shit out of me.
I’d asked Annabel to take a look at the manuscript and, if she liked it, whether she’d be interested in providing an endorsement. She did, and she was. In fact, she offered several endorsements, each as colourful as the other: ‘Too much information can work!’ was one; ‘He’s not taking any secrets to the grave - hilarious’ was another. She told me she particularly loved the chapter in which I spend 5,000 words detailing how I can’t pee at urinals.‘“This book made me want to go out for a beer with Joel Meares… and then stand slightly too close to him in the toilet queue’, she offered.
Up until this point I had not given a second thought to just how much of myself I was sharing in We’re All Going to Die (Especially Me). And I’d never paused to wonder whether what I was writing would be embarrassing. I just sat down each night and wrote. That people would read it, that the end purpose of all of this was to sell this book for people to consume, was not something that occupied my mind. Then Annabel got me thinking.
Too much information? Perhaps. I had, when I thought about it, divulged, in great detail, my bathroom habits. I’d also shown myself, at times, to be jealous, and nasty, and sneaky… and then there was that whole 20-page section about how I can’t do simple tasks like change a tire, catch a ball or replace a light bulb (really, I’ve called a landlord to help me on this point). And, in that chapter where I screw half the profiles on Manhunt.com, I did paint myself as a bit of a man hussy. I’d left nothing off the table. Except maybe that time I did it on that table.
I immediately decided to do a cull – to de-embarrass the book, combing through it line by line to get rid of the ‘ick’ and add to the ‘charm’. I’d just trash that whole pee-shy chapter and replace it with that time I did something heroic (I’d have to think about it…) and I’d de-sex my coming out to make the story more about love and deep connections. But something stopped me. And that was, while people reading the book had hooked into how revealing it was, they all seemed to like it.
It was a small realisation, but an important one: that full, warts-strange-sex-and-all honesty had its appeal, and that it added to a story. By writing the book without censoring myself, and by forgetting that it was a product and just telling my story, I was making my story better.
Is it hard to be honest when telling embarrassing stories? Not if you forget that someone’s going to read the one day. Treat it like that, and when they do, I reckon they will like it, too much information and all.