• Julie Luek
  • [Making the Leap] The Girl in the Mirror
[Making the Leap] The Girl in the Mirror
Written by
Julie Luek
February 2013
Written by
Julie Luek
February 2013

I flew to Pittsburgh this past week to help my mother move into an independent living facility. It was a lot of work and by the evening I was pooped and a little emotionally stressed. So, for a couple of nights I escaped to a local restaurant, saddled up to the bar, and ordered myself a much-appreciated drink. 

At the Bar

I did what writers do best: I sat on a stool, sipped a drink and watched the people around me. There was the cute young couple across from me, snuggling up to each other, tasting each other’s food, privately chatting.There was another older couple adjacent to me, not talking much, or making eye contact but seemingly comfortable in each other's presence. Their focus was the food. I'm guessing they were the long-time, married couple. I wanted to know more about these people. What were their stories?

While I people-gazed, a gentleman sat down near me and struck up a conversation. I realized, in that quick moment, knowing I would probably never see him again, I could be anyone. I could lie about my age, my occupation, where I live, my marital status, even my story of why I was in Pittsburgh. It was a fleeting, freeing feeling to think about being anyone I wanted to be for a half hour. I could create a whole, new story!

Of course, ultimately, I was just me. 

At My Desk

While away, I finished Anna Quindlen's memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Embedded in one chapter, Ms. Quindlen wrote about teaching her writing students to dig deeper and be more personal and transparent in their writing. She exhorted them to open up more and let people see who they really are, not the person they want to be.

Being vulnerable in our writing, allowing people to see our flaws, foibles, doubts, fears as well as joys and humor is a tricky line to walk, but one which adds readability, warmth, and depth to our writing.


It’s what I've strived to do in the Making the Leap posts, even though my natural tendency is to censor, delete, correct and create the person I want you to see.

I try to imagine you and I are sitting down across the table from each other. I’m sipping my tea, you are perhaps blowing the hot steam off your coffee cup and we are getting to know each other as writers, women and men, friends (I might be stealing a bite of your biscotti, but maybe you can pretend not to notice).  

I recently read a book, very different from my usual reading genre, written by Dean Koontz titled, The Door to December. The book is a paranormal crime thriller. The essentials of the plot included a woman recovering from loss, a young daughter desperately in need of healing, and a tough, street-wise detective trying to protect them both in the face of supernatural odds that didn't make sense. In notes at the end of the book, Mr. Koontz reveals his belief that family and its unconditional love offer the ability to conquer even our worse fears and demons. It is a theme personally relevant and important to him and finds its way into many of his stories-- his feelings, needs and vulnerability give his stories their heart. 

At Your Desk

How about you? Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, how do you let your vulnerability show? Do you try, as Ms. Quindlen urges, to dig deeper and get more personal with your writing? Do you, as Mr. Koontz did, tap into your own emotions to create a story? How much do you allow the true you to be seen in your writing?

When I think back to the books or blogs I most enjoy, the writers who most engage or touch me, I realize each author has allowed me to sit down and in their engaging voice, invited me to enjoy a cup of coffee and share their stories.


Keep writing,

Julie (the real me)

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  • Olga Godim

    Great post, Julie.

    I found that the real me always comes out in my fiction, even though I don't really want it to. You can guess I don't like myself much. But after I've written several novels, one of them just published, I see a trend in my characters. They all share many of my traits and habits. Only in them, what I dislike in myself always turns on its head, becomes a road to success or joy or friendship. I have yet to learn to write about people who are the direct opposite of me. Perhaps it takes more professional skills than I have at the moment? I'm still learning.   

  • Sunny Frazier

    This goes back to the adage "Cut your wrist and bleed all over the page." I think all readers can sense when the author is detached emotionally from the writing. This is fine with adventure novels and often superficially done with romance novels. Even though I write in the mystery genre, I do expose myself via my character. I write what hurts into my character, Christy. Even the astrology I write about: as hard as it is, I try to relay what I feel when I do horoscopes and get pulled into people's lives. I promised when I set out to write the series that I would not back away and tell the truth as I know it in my experience. I realized many people would consider it bunk and perhaps scoff at my mysteries, but that's the risk I took. Without risk, there is no honesty. I believe readers value honesty above all in novels. If an author isn't prepared to open their veins, they are keeping the best part of the reading and writing experience locked inside.   

  • Julie Luek

    Thanks Amy. It sounds like you and I are contemplating the same thing with our writing. 

  • Amy Ferris

    love this so much. thank you thank you thank you for sharing, writing. xoxoxox

  • Julie Luek

    Melissa, I so wish I was better at poetry. More than any other form of writing, I think poetry is like painting and the words colorful brushstrokes. I can see, and I envy, how being able to "paint" with words can open up and release so much truth. 

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Daphne-- I am SO much that way too. I can't have any music or noise and have to quiet my mind so I can dig. It's not easy for me though. Like I said int his piece, my natural tendency is to correct me and not just reveal me. 

  • M. Kinnel

    I really think a lot of me comes out in my poetry. Not all of my poems are reflections of me, but most of them do present a picture of my feelings or things that I'm going through at that moment in time. 

  • Daphne Q

    Good post, Julie! I need to be alone in a quiet, comfortable writing setting to dig deep. That's the only way it works, so when I get to a "heavy" part of my books, I make sure I have that environment to write in.