Missing Truth

July 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

Have you ever seen the movie The Hours? (If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.) Do you remember how the man’s novel is criticized because he uses “too much detail”? How he defends his style as a means to describe everything that a moment holds, to get it all out there, to make sure the world understands it all, every last bit of his soul? How desperate that man was, so unfulfilled?

More than one creative-minded person has approached me with a similar problem. “I had this dream,” a friend will tell me. “There was such a strong feeling to it, and I want to write about it so badly. But I want the reader to understand that emotion so much, it’s not working. I’m just sort of summarizing.” Another friend will go over and over his verses, revising them so that the meaning will become more obvious to the reader, afraid they won’t be able to fully grasp that idea in which he so strongly believes. I’ve seen this desperation in other art forms-theatre (that one actress who looks like she’s trying too hard to embody her character to the fullest of her ability), singing (struggling to put emotion into every word), dancing (painful knee injuries resulting from a too-intense routine.) Performers wanting to display, embody, and explore a truth so deeply it causes them pain and frustration rather than joy and fulfillment. So that they actually miss it entirely.

There are some days when I encounter this very problem. A lot of days, actually. I’ve always had a guarded soul, one absolutely spilling over with wonder, doubt, loneliness and confusion. Truth. The only way to keep myself sane is to let it run free and mold itself into something recognizable and understandable, something others will connect to, build from. My desperation to light that powderkeg, to replace tension with explosion, can sometimes result in nothing but a bubbling mess. I’ll find I’m “straining” while I’m writing. The words won’t be flowing seamlessly (sort of like right now), my sentences will be a little choppy, and on the whole the piece is unsatisfying. On those days, I give myself a break. I tell myself, not right now. If it ain’t coming, it ain’t coming.

Here’s what I do on the good days: I write with feeling. I let it guide. It’s in charge. It’s not conscious, but it’s there. Then when I read it back, I can sense that one idea pulsing beneath the surface. When I’m desperate to get my idea across, I sense desperation pulsing beneath the surface, and not the good kind. Both the reader and author (!) are less clear on what’s trying to be said. The truth isn’t really there. Just a rough sketch, an imitation.

The bottom line (a very frustrating and sort of ambiguous bottom line) is this: you have to let go. When you do, the truth will do the talking. You’ll just do the writing.

Anyone out there relate?


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