On Writing: Motion, Emotion, and Truth

You shall know the truth.

We are, each of us, unreliable narrators. We write every chapter of our life’s story an instant after living it, so that we are ever in motion, perpetually trying to catch up with ourselves. For every event and happening there are dozens of perspectives – and for our own perspective there are a dozen angles, a dozen ways of phrasing a sentence or using a word so as to make us appear better or worse or smarter or more powerful, beautiful beyond belief, more handsome than in our wildest dreams. To write our story using the right words, to say only what happened: this is what we must strive for. To say nothing more and nothing less than what we really mean. To find the one perspective and the one angle out of hundreds of thousands that reflects only the truth.

What is truth?

To know the truth we must know ourselves; to know ourselves, we must open every crusted scab, every half-closed wound, every partially healed gash and make peace with what flows from within. Acknowledge the deep-seated anger at the injustice of the world; hear the grief in the cry of every orphan, fatherless before his time, and every widow, robbed of her husband; walk in the shoes of those with no hope, know what it is like to go hungry for days on end, feel the craving for the next hit spiral through our veins, infecting every waking thought and restless dream. Hear life in the squeal of a newborn infant; see strength in the decision of an addict to start over again, again, again; find hope in the sheer resilience of humanity. There is courage to be found in those who walk in the dark places. There is determination in those making a new beginning. There is love in those who would have you think they themselves are unable to be loved.

What is truth?

We must be honest with ourselves. As writers and narrators of the darkest and lightest parts of humanity, we feel so deeply. We must let ourselves feel. In these feelings and emotions we find places that call to us, resounding within us: The solemn silence of a country churchyard. The cautious curiosity of an unexplored alley. The shrouded malevolence of deserted streets at night. The glory of a mountain-top at sunrise and the calm of the saltwater ocean at dusk. They amplify the emotions, letting us feel, helping us to say nothing more and nothing less than what we really mean. We must do this, and we must always, always remember: we write our stories an instant after they have happened, but there is One who wrote them before.

I am truth.


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