Radical Honesty

I came across this article in Esquire and found it oddly thrilling. It’s about the Radical Honesty movement – a lifestyle advocated by a man in Virginia who preaches absolute honesty in all communication. And this doesn’t just include telling the truth – it also means expressing the things that cross your mind when they cross your mind. It’s not the movement itself that thrilled me, but the attempt by the article’s author to live the Radically Honest lifestyle for a few weeks, and what it seemed to do to his writing.

While it seems like an exhausting and ultimately unsustainable way to live your life (the movement’s five-times-divorced main proponent seems to manage his honesty by being drunk most of the time), it struck me as a great way to approach one’s writing.: with total, unabashed honesty, without regard to consequence. I want to read work like that, and I want to write it.


Hmm, I’m always getting into trouble and told off for being too honest and not having a brain-mouth filter, so I wouldn’t recommend it. :slight_smile:

Very true. I don’t think I’d make it to my one year anniversary!

You might want to read James Morrow’s satirical speculative fiction novella, City of Truth. From the publisher’s blurb:


In Veritas, the City of Truth, people have been brutally conditioned to always tell the truth, no matter how unnerving (or droll) the truth may be. It will come as no surprise, then, that elevators in Veritas carry the notice THIS ELEVATOR MAINTAINED BY PEOPLE WHO HATE THEIR JOBS. RIDE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Or that cigarette packs say WARNING: THE SURGEON GENERAL’S CRUSADE AGAINST THIS PRODUCT MAY DISTRACT YOU FROM THE MYRIAD WAYS YOUR GOVERNMENT FAILS TO PROTECT YOUR HEALTH.

Jack Sperry leads a rather routine life as a “deconstructionist,” destroying “mendacious” old works of art, until his beloved son, Toby, is bitten by a rabbit at Camp Ditch-the-Kids and contracts a rare disease. Jack must now somehow learn to lie if, as he believes, only falsehoods can give Toby enough hope to effect a cure.

I think I lack both an outgoing and incoming filter when it comes to tact and propriety. I tend to take overt, ritualistic gestures as literal parcels of truth, and in return, provide complete candour, often to the confusion/horror of the other party. It is not often until a day or seven later that I realise some awful statement has been made, and that I can only hope that my track record for being brutally obvious will offer a faint balm to the tender recipient of my charms.

Doubtlessly, I live this way already, and I would in no way recommend the lifestyle unless your desire for kinship and human connectivity is so parched and barren that it really doesn’t matter. In other words, it isn’t a lifestyle any longer, but simply the way you are programmed. Only the most forgiving, or equally abrupt and practically autistic friends will stick around.

As an interesting experiment, I once tried an opposing movement. I tried to live a life of unspoken thoughts and outright deceptions lacing nearly every conversation. Though it was not an entirely successful endeavour, I’d say it helped my writing quite a bit, especially in the realm of dialogue. I think the theme here is that forcefully stepping out of routine is a good way to freshen your mind to new approaches. It probably isn’t the honesty (or lack in my case) so much as simply forcing yourself to think differently for a while; to process and produce information in a new way.

Apropos of Amber’s post, one of my favourite “nerd-demistifying” pieces: Nerd tact filters

I actually owned the book “Radical Honesty” by Brad Blanton. It’s an old book, I know I didn’t like it because I threw it away. I bought it because the title was good, but the content was lousy. We humans, are complex creatures, as Freud, Jung, Campbell and many others have noted. When you say honest, whose honesty are you honoring. The honesty of your little ego that wants to shag and eat ice cream. Or the honesty of your higher impulses, that wants to help your children do their homework, or even to help poor and helpless people, like mother Teresa did. Brad Blanton is honoring his little ego. As he says he had shagged 500 women, 12 man and had one dog lick his dick. Honest yes, but that honesty is not worth much. There is another honesty, represented by Mohandas Gandhi, where he is honoring the higher impulses. Read about it in his book " The Story of My Experiments With Truth". That is an honesty worth something, and it is a real role model for a writer. If you really want to be honest with your writing, read Gandhis book :smiley: .

I participated in a “Radical Honesty” workshop here in Germany a few years ago (though it went under a different name). It lasted five days, from Wednesday to Sunday, and it was one of the strongest – and strangest – experiences of my life.

Picture eighteen or nineteen strangers from all walks of life, from the early twen to the pensioner, male and female.

After two days of telling eachother exactly what we were thinking we were the best of friends. Why? Because all the usual pretensions and protections fell off and everybody realized that there wasn’t much of a difference between themselves and the next person; there was actually no reason to be afraid of eachother or to be ashamed of anything.

Stripping naked (literally) and getting up infront of the group was difficult for most (including me) but proved a very powerful tool for self-acceptance.

The psychological intimacy did lead to physical intimacy in some cases; but most participants had a partner in the “outside world” to go back to and did not want to upset their relationships.


I’m happiest with my writing when I say to myself, “To heck with how anyone else would want me to write this!” and just write the way I want to write. Often, this happens after an epiphanic moment; too often, these epiphanic moments happen when I have the flu, and I’m just so tired that I don’t care anymore.

I think an example of a really honest writer is the Miami Herald’s legendary Edna Buchanan. (Check out any of her books at the library.) She’s famous for her first paragraphs - “ledes” (pronounced like Leeds) in the newspaper biz. One story involved Gary Robinson, who arrived at a fried chicken fast-food restaurant one night to find long lines of people waiting to be served. Too intoxicated to care, he barged to the front of a line, where he was told to wait his turn. He did, but when his turn came up, the restaurant was fresh out of the type of fried chicken he craved. Enraged, Robinson left, returned with a gun, and demanded his chicken. Armed security officers then shot him dead.

Buchanan’s lede: “Gary Robinson died hungry.”

I had an epiphanic moment during a writing test for a newspaper internship. The story was about a young woman named Mary Brown who returns home from a date, only to find a burglar ransacking her parents’ family room. She picks up a seven-pound brass candlestick, brandishes it at the burglar, and tells him to get out. He doesn’t. Instead, he approaches Mary. She whacks him in the head with the candlestick, knocking him cold.

For the life of me, all I could think about was Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum and that damned candlestick! “Oh, what the heck!” I thought. “If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. Tough!”

My lede: "Mary nailed the burglar in the family room with the candlestick.
“It may sound like the solution to the board game Clue, but Buffalo police say a real-life Mary Brown, 21, …”

The most fun & interesting job I ever had in journalism was my internship with the Buffalo News! :mrgreen:

But look what you eventually became: A murderer of innocent carpenter ants :open_mouth: Tch! Jeeezz!

No such creature.


Mr S.

Please consider the origin of the statement in question. His ability to differentiate fiction from fantasy has been proven deficient. Please to not antagonize him.

On the other hand it has been a slow week. Maybe I will help.

Actually, it’s worse. I left journalism and became a lawyer.

Yeah!! But y dont do that for fun, do y?

You`ve teamed up with Patrick Patrickavonavitch, and become the carpenter ant killing Bonnie&Clyde of Akron! Right! :open_mouth:


Do Take Care
Dr Mulality

Nope, I don’t practice law for fun. Hubby and I don’t kill carpenter ants for fun, either - we do it in self-defense!

I can’t speak for my cats, though. They kill ants, spiders, beetles, mice, catnip toys, reflections from my watch face, laser pointer dots, balls of yarn - heck, anything that looks amusing - for fun. :open_mouth:

Jeezzz!! How many times have we heard that one!! Give us a break!!

Hey, Ohio just expanded the defense of self-defense. As of this Tuesday, Ohioans are allowed to use deadly force against anyone breaking into their home or vehicle. I’m sure that’s how my husband views the carpenter ants! :wink:

Has anybody actually,TOLD’, the poor old Carpentre Ants that there lives are in jeopardy. Have you got signs strategically place about the property, so at least they can make informed choices when contemplating any given course of action? No! Course you havent! Because! You and Grigori Efimovich Rasputin, just enjoy killing em. Period

Tch Jeezzz!

The gaol is not to TELL them but to SHOOT them (or bludgeon, knife, strangle, etc). If you tell them you are then liable (premeditation/disposition) and it make the self-defense defense (goo thing there is no repetitive word checker here) difficult to use.

Jacqi, does the Ohio law make this distinction? I know NY law does for domestic canine cases (the classic “beware of dog” sign indicates that you know you have a dangerous pet).