Creative nonfiction writers get accused of narcissism all the time . . . “navel gazing.” I suppose that could be true; perhaps, some of us really are just obsessed with ourselves. But I prefer to think of what we do as unflinching honesty.


When we do our work well, what the reader sees is not just the kind of profound truth that comes through in great fiction, but that kind of honesty applied to our own lives.

This unguarded, vulnerable, self-reflective honesty is what makes me love this genre more than any other. In it, we get to be real . . . as hard as that is.

My favorite moments in essays are when the writers are not only able to see their own weaknesses but also able to admit them. There’s a strength and a power that comes from being that vulnerable.

As Phillip Lopate says, “By showing our complicity in the world’s stock of sorrow, we convince the reader of our reality and even gain his sympathy.”

So here’s my moment of absolute honesty in this post. . . this writing thing is really hard, and it’s the most vulnerable thing I can possibly do. But full confession? I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Is nonfiction narcissistic to you? What do you think of unbridled honesty – is it just about garnering readers, or is there power in that vulnerability?