If we’re valuing verisimilitude as a marker of good writing, I’m not a good writer. Every feeling I evoke and scene I describe may seem realistic, but they’re grounded in the mind, not reality.*
When I write about sadness, it’s as vague as the knowledge that the Earth won’t exist in a distant, nearly unimaginable future, and lacks the burn of tears, discomfort of the lump in my throat, or the unsettling sinking of my heart when I’m actually sad (let alone the personal reasons for it). On the satire paper, I’m the one with the witty turn of phrase, never the one with the sexual joke or biting remark aimed straight at the administration. And even though I’ve spent what’s seemed like an endless amount of time writing about the body, the only time I actually referred to mine in concrete terms was in my last post, and I felt rather uncomfortable typing it out.
I hide in the cerebral or metaphorical rather than the literal because the literal makes me vulnerable. There is no way to dodge and claim you were misinterpreted when you explicitly admit to throwing up, getting mad at a friend, or crying alone at night. By keeping things in general or symbolic terms, I avoid having to dig inside of myself and pull up something true, and for that reason likely painful. Yet avoiding these deep-rooted feelings is avoiding the truth. Writing as I do is, if not a lie outright, a lie by omission.
I admit that this sort of dishonesty is mainly restricted to my writing. In my encounters with people rather than readers, I will reveal my emotions and fears as they occur to me. And when I don’t, it’s because they’re too personal for the level of friendship between me and my interlocutor. This is the accepted norm, and to pour my heart out to every stranger would be at the least rather odd and at the most destructive to my relationships. However, when it comes to writing, which I approach as a means of distilling a part of myself or of my perception of the world, omitting truths, even on occasion, is unacceptable. Writing without something behind it feels cheap and may be a waste of a reader’s time.
Oftentimes when I write I can feel the lie happening, can feel myself skirting around the truth and covering it with pretty phrases. At this point in my life, when I buy into the idea that writing as an art can be valuable and it earns its value through a connection with my emotional, physical, and mental experiences, I don’t want to hold anything back when I write anymore.
*Interpretations of this word abound, but here I use it to name the physical world around us as we perceive it through the senses, something solid, verifiable in a scientific, if not philosophic, way.