I was taught a tough lesson this week: self awareness.
It may come as a surprise, but I have a tendency towards prudishness. Whereas it’s true that, after a G&T, I can curse and joke like the dirtiest of sailors, when it comes to writing I turn into Mrs Prudish McGee.
I find it difficult to write about sex, for example. I find it even more difficult to write about flirting and more difficult still to write flirty dialogue. Why write the ins and outs of a flirtation when I can conveniently write “they flirted”? BECAUSE IT’S NOT GOOD WRITING, DAMMIT.
The most important lesson I was taught, however, was not just overcoming my own inner prude but becoming more self aware. Recognise the areas of your writing where you show your discomfort, or lack of self confidence, and force yourself to make them better. Give them detail, give them dialogue, and practice the descriptions and characterisation even if you come to edit most of it out: your writing will benefit and you, as a writer, will improve.
So, after I finished slapping myself, I did some serious anti-prudish writing. I also researched a LOT of dirty jokes. I horrified myself by listening to real people flirting in real life. The horror, the horror!
Want to know how much better a writer I am now? I wrote the words nipple and breast without a) giggling or b) blushing. Now that, my friends, is progress.