Honesty in Writing

Life is chock-full of deception. Little white lies, black fibs and colorless lies of omission are all over the place. You tell people they look nice when they don’t, you tell them you had fun when you didn’t,  and for the most part these are harmless half-truths, not even full-blown lies really. These everyday dishonesties are just the cordial terms of communication agreed upon to keep our society civil, and I’ll be the first to say they’re all desperately needed.

Imagine if you told your boss what you really think about his tie, or if you told your wife that dress does make her look fat (of course there is no dress in the world that has ever made my wife look fat, she’s perfect. She looks good in everything…). Point is, if we didn’t keep up appearances the world would descend into chaos. A chaos of petty insults and minor injuries, made all the more painful because we know they’re true. We’d kill each other inside of a week if everyone expressed honest opinions openly and freely.

But not in writing, as cliché as it may sound, on the page, honesty is the best policy. The writer is liberated, completely free to be as honest and as forth coming as they would like, as a matter of fact I have found that the more honest, the more unrestricted the writer is, the more fulfilling the text. When writing, you don’t just say a character stinks (or neglect to say a character stinks when the characters does in fact ‘stink’) No, you describe, in raw unadulterated detail how the character smells. How your olfactory receptors are being attacked by the stench, how you can smell the  buckets of sweat that have dried and transformed themselves into layer after layer of caked on dirt and grime. You would not hesitate to mention how the unnatural body odor intermingled with the ever-present scent of sour clothing have now joined forces with what is undeniably the smell of trace amounts of urine and human feces which have not only invaded your nose and sense of smell but have now crossed the threshold of the senses and have gotten into your mouth and sense of taste and now have you seriously considering how to remove both your nose and tongue from your face if you are not able to breathe fresh air immediately.

Real life would never allow you the opportunity to be so honest. But in writing you’re free. Everything that goes unsaid in reality can be openly expressed in writing. What I find interesting is that, at heart I am a writer of fiction, which is all lies, large over arching lies, that when done properly, still point back to some great and common truth. Through some made up story, through a series of events that in reality never took place, I intend to lead you to something that in my soul and in your soul we both know to be true. And in that sense, even lying becomes a form of honesty.

I am writing more non-fiction these days and I have found that here too honesty breathes a certain amount of life into those old stories. When my pen dances just slightly above the page or my fingers dawdle just within reach of the keyboard as I considering omitting some detail that I feel may be to embarrassing or just a bit too revealing, I tell myself that it’s those details, the embarrassing and revealing moments that make the writing mine, it’s what makes it unique and what makes it worth reading.




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