Writing Lessons from Naked Men in the Trunk of My Car

Today's post is a guest post by Rebecca Livermore, a freelance writer, professional web content creator, and friend. She works with some of the top names in social media, and is a gifted writer. Enjoy!

After dropping my husband off at work, I made my way toward the gate of the Army base to head home. There was a lineup of slowly moving cars waiting to exit through the partially closed gate.

Woman Looking In Car

There must be some kind of threat, I thought, as I drove slowly toward the gate.

I Need to See Your ID

Just as I was about to reach the gate, a soldier dre ssed in camouflage jumped in front of my car, with his hand up, a silent gesture that clearly indicated that I had no choice but to stop immediately.

A moment later, another soldier approached the driver’s side of the car.

“I need to see your ID,” the soldier calmly stated.

“Sure thing,” I replied, as I reached for my purse, pulled out my military dependent ID card and handed it to him.

By Order of the Base Commander. . .

“By order of the base commander, you need to exit your vehicle,” he informed me.

I got out of the car and stood on the side of the road and watched as one soldier searched my glove compartment, and two other soldiers looked through the trunk of my car, before giving me permission to leave.

Later that Day. . .

A bit later that day, I went back on base to go to the commissary.

“Here, let me get the trunk,” I said to the bagger who had helped me to my car with my groceries.

As I opened the trunk, I gasped, when I saw stacks of photos on canvas of naked, emaciated men.

Shocked, I quickly flipped the photos over, hoping the bagger hadn’t seen them.

My Husband Had Some Explaining to Do

“Honey, why are there photos of naked men in the trunk of our car?!?” I asked, as soon as my husband answered the phone.

“Oh, those were for a Holocaust display I was working on, but I decided not to use them because I thought they might be too disturbing.”

No kidding.

And then I remembered. . . the soldiers who had inspected my car. No wonder they spent so much time looking at what was in the trunk.

How embarrassing.

Hidden Things

What I learned through that experience is that when we least expect it, our “trunk” may be searched, and our secrets that appear to be safely hidden away, will be exposed.

The lesson in this for writers  is that if you’re less than ethical in the content you create, you’ll eventually be found out. And embarrassed. . . or worse.

Are any of these shameful things hidden in your writing?

Plagiarized Content

I’ll be the first to admit that it can be hard to come up with compelling content on a regular basis. It takes time. And effort. And there’s so much content out there already; why not just “borrow” a bit of it? You know, grab something and change a few words here and there. Who would ever know?

Here’s the deal: if you do this, it will eventually be discovered, and the dirty little secret hidden in your “trunk” will be exposed.

Fabricated stories

Some writers write about hard things. Horrific things. Tales of abuse. Others write about inspiring things, heroic feats that warm the heart.

Blogging in particular opens up the opportunity for everyone to share about the events of their lives, and often this sharing helps to bring hope, healing, and inspiration to others.

Exaggerated Accomplishments

But some writers  make things up. For example, some writers exaggerate their accomplishments. One place this happens is on the “about” page on websites.

The about page on your site should tell people about who you and your company are, not who you wish you were.

Though you don’t have to tell people you dropped out of high school, if that was your reality, don’t pretend to have an advanced degree.

Or maybe you won a writing contest in the third grade. That doesn’t make you an award-winning author.

It’s fine to write about aspirations, as long as it’s clear that’s what you’re doing, but in order to avoid embarrassment and loss of credibility in the future, cut the crap. Write the truth. Be honest about who you are and what you’ve done.

If you’re honest in what you write, you’ll never have to be embarrassed about what your readers might discover when the content in your “trunk” is unexpectedly exposed.

Question: How have, or would you respond if you discovered a writer you admired was less than honest? Click here to comment.

Rebecca Livermore is a freelance writer and professional web content creator. You can read her blog about professional content creation, and get her insights on social media, online marketing, and more.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Dennis McIntee

    Thanks for bringing attention to honesty in our content creation. It’s such a sticking point, because what we do flows out of who we are. The interesting thing about truth: It eventually will come out. Time has a way of allowing deception to reveal itself. Honesty and authenticity is something that really characterizes you. I’ve always appreciated your willingness to be straightforward and even walk away from revenue opportunities because it wasn’t a good fit for you. You’re a great example of integrity and you’re the real deal. What I see is what I get. Good stuff!

    • Dennis, thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words. You hit the nail on the head when you say that what we do flows out of who we are. You are also right that the truth will eventually come out. I think we’ve all been embarrassed at times when something embarrassing about us comes to light. The bottom line is that examining our own hearts and making corrections as needed is the starting point for not ending up embarrassed by what is revealed.

  • Love, love, love the truths presented here Rebecca. I think it is so important to remain honest and trustworthy. People learn more from our messes sometimes then our accomplishments. Too many experts think vulnerability damages their credibility. I think the opposite is true. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Jonathan, such a great point about people learning from our messes! Another thing about being honest about who we are is that it gives other people hope. If people only see a distorted picture of who we are, then they may thing that they can’t do what we do, but if we’re honest about who we really are and others see our success, they’ll have hope that they can accomplish the same thing (or more).

  • Wow interesting story – thanks for sharing Rebecca and great advice about keeping things real and thinking about reputation management – once something is on the internet it has a very long shelf life, for sure!

    • Donna, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. You are so right about things on the Internet. Even if we delete something, people can still pull it up. Better to just do the right thing from the start! 🙂

  • Thanks Rebecca, a very important topic. Being open and honest about what you write and publish is so much easier. Otherwise you will need to remember what you wrote or told where. It’s all about transparency.

    • Good point, Fokke! I for one am glad to not have to remember what I said. It certainly makes life easier if we simply tell the truth.

    • I have a hard enough time remembering what I actually said.

      • Exactly. So nothing to worry when being transparent. Because then things come natural.

  • Rebecca, I just wanted to say thank you for your generosity in writing this post for us. Beautifully said!

  • Even if it was just “one time,” it would cause me to suspect all their work. Fairly recently a some what popular Pastor was accused of this very thing. A clear sign we all need to go above and beyond to cite our work when required.

    • Jon, you make an excellent point in that even one slip up can cause you to not trust someone in the future. Trust takes a long time to build, and only a moment to destroy!

  • Rick Carter

    Different post … I read first and then figured out it wasn’t Ray .. I’m slow but that’s me. I enjoyed it very much and sometimes no matter what things happen to us and friends it wasn’t our fault as well. I know. Fear, guilt and false guilt are spoilers – big spoilers of our peace and can be of our future! Learning to let it go is best – move on! Oh, always question everything just in case! =)

    Thank you very much for your post Rebecca!

    • Rick, thanks so much for your comment! It brought a big smile to my face, especially the part about your at first not realizing that it wasn’t Ray! I’ve made that same mistake myself sometimes, and it can be quite confusing! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Hope you have a great weekend, Rick!

      • I did wonder how many people were going to be confused by reading about “my husband”…

        • Haha, Ray! That would be rather confusing, now wouldn’t it? 😉

  • Well…the title had me wondering that is for sure.

    I wrote about me own dishonesty on my blog once. It wasn’t intentional (I don’t think) but I had bought into a lie so long ago that when I wrote about it years later, I believe it was true. It wasn’t until a friend of mine pointed out that it wasn’t that I posted a correction.

    Tough post to write, but necessary.

    • Matt, that must have taken a lot of courage! You really do bring up an important point here and that is that if we lie to ourselves (or others) often enough, we end up having a hard time even knowing what is or is not true. Just another reason to do our best to be honest in all things. (Though as I wrote that last sentence, I was keenly aware of how often we do not even know our own hearts, so this is an ongoing battle, for sure!)