Saturday, October 8, 2011

Writers are liars

Okay, I'm inserting this here because it seems it's the only way to get past this particular obstacle and move on to the real purpose of this blog and this work.

Writers are, by nature, liars. Oh, at our best we are truth-sayers, to be sure. But our allegiance is not ultimately to the truth; it is to the narrative. Even when we say our goal is truth, we are lying. 

Our goal is truth, artfully told. That is not quite the same thing.

There are compromises made in the process of artful telling. There are choices. Which details to include and which to leave out; which should be revealed now and which should wait. Which details to foreshadow like creeping dread behind the closed closet door and which to drop like  stones into still ponds.

These choices aren't accidents. Neither are they Truth, unmitigated. 

Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to imply that writerly manipulation is malicious. It's not. It's the stuff that keeps you reading, that makes you want to engage, that makes the truth worth hearing. It's just that this thing I'm trying to do here seems at cross purposes with craft, and yet I don't feel capable of writing what is simply true, without crafting it at all.

So far, the mere act of writing this disclaimer-of-sorts has helped me see the way through. I'm just going to claim it and move forward: I am letting my need to control the narrative keep me from writing about what's happening. It's hard to stop doing it. That need for control is at the very heart of why I am going through what I'm going through in the first place. I've become an expert at avoidance in the past 20 years, and I've recently learned why, and that's why I'm both trying to write this blog and trying, apparently, to keep myself from writing it.

Knock it off, avoidant brain. We're in this now, you and me. Nothing left to lose.

So there will be things coming up that don't make a lot of sense. There won't be a good narrative for a while. I need to say what happened back then, and what continued to happen, and what is still happening to this day, and there are very few straight lines to follow in that tale. I'll try not to get too tangled up. But if I'm ever going to get this thing going, I've got to stop worrying about writing and just show my hand. 

Truth. Hmmm. Nice to meet you. I guess.

Okay. Disclaimer over. Onward.

PS: I'm experimenting with a better commenting format, so please bear with me as I tweak things around a little. Feel free to give input on the changes you see if you notice anything worth commenting on. And thanks again for leaving your thoughts here-- I can't tell you how helpful it is to me to hear back from you!


  1. Readers, by nature (we hope), find a way to follow anyway. Ü Deal: you keep writing whatever it is you've got in there in whatever way it comes out, and we'll keep reading. No judgements on how well the story's told. Promise. We're all here. And the only thing we're lookin for is more of you. Thank you again for this, sister. All my love.

  2. Having read this post, and then the next one, it seems to me that it is less a case of lying, or crafting, but rather of telling the story in a new way. By that I mean, you have a narrative of your accident it is "The girl who lived", and you have a new narrative of your accident which is "Well, sort of", and it's been 20 years of offering the encapsulated, safe for you, and safe for your audience version of the story; both the story of the actual accident, and the story of "you" after the accident. One of the coolest papers I read as an undergraduate, and one that I really didn't understand at all until I was about 35, was that the concept that to 're-story' is to 're-store'. So tell us your story.
    I think that one of the dilemmas of a life altering experience, especially when one is so incredibly young and in the process of forming one's adult identity, is that the story of yourself is still coalescing, and so it seems possible to just tuck an experience like a devastating car accident in, and move on. Of course, that ignores the reality of the traumatic process, which has one do that any way, BUT, I do think that age and identity aid in the 'tucking away' in a way that it might not in an older person.
    Ok, on to less heady matters. Commenting on your next post.