Friday, March 05, 2010

Truth in Writing

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—this is the immortal advice that Emily Dickinson has left us with. The end lines of the poem tell us that "With explanation kind, The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind—" This poem's brilliance cannot be ignored, so neither should its advice. Yes, this poem is generally interpreted as being about God, but why should that make it any less meaningful when applied to other areas? Why not apply it to journalistic and novelistic ethics? As writers we may come to a situation where we are put between a rock and a hard place, where we must decide if we should tell the whole story, or if we should hedge, omit, or even outright lie to cover for someone else. It's a decision we all must make for ourselves, and should be taken on a case by case basis, but perhaps, like myself, you can find help in Dickinson's words.

Lately I have written a series of personal narratives that have primarily been to work out issues in my life. Cathartic though they are in nature, I still wonder if I could do something with them, perhaps get these pieces published somewhere. I know that it may not work out, but I could at least try, though one thing stands in my way. These narratives are extremely personal, and although I have no qualms with telling the world these things about myself, many of them focus on my family and the current struggles we have found ourselves in. So while I am okay with having my story out there, my family probably doesn't feel the same way. I come from a very long line of proud people, the kind of people who brush issues under the carpet and will do anything to keep the image that everything is okay. To publish these narratives would be to destroy that façade, but should I not publish, or not write, something because of how it will affect them? I want to say I shouldn't, but I know that's a promise I wouldn't be able to keep. For me, writing is all about catharsis, getting the emotions on the page, no matter who reads it.

So do we write things as they are, the truth, bare for the world to see in its natural state, or do we maybe fudge a little, to protect others? Perhaps we tell all the Truth, but we tell it slant. We present things as they are, but we present it in such a light that it may not be as harsh when the judgement time comes. We will let it dazzle gradually, and try our hardest not to blind anyone.

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