Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Whine to go with my cheese.

The sun is actually shining today. As you can't go anywhere in this town without seeing someone you know, I exchanged polite chitchat at the eye doctor about the weather. We talked about how sad it is that it's a banner day in a Kirksville winter when there is sunlight.

This is going to be the most boring blog post ever. I *did* have a fairly boring day yesterday, up to a point, but the reason it's going to be boring is one of the most frustrating things to me as both a person and a writer: There are things I just can't blog about-- and there are things I just won't blog about.

One of the things I was taught in college (or, directly after college, to be more precise) is that writers should be honest. Anne Lamott directs readers of Bird by Bird to write the truth, to write for revenge, not to hold back from writing things just because the truth will hurt someone else.

However, I have noticed that she has never identified or given any details about the father of her child (or, if she has, it's because her child is now an adult) and that there are other privacy details she protects. So, is she a hypocrite, or is there a tacit "except" in the advice to young writers to write the truth. We are supposed to write the truth, we are supposed to write what we know.

I guess to some extent, I view plunging ahead and writing truths even if they will hurt someone else as melodramatic rather than noble. Other writers don't get to determine whether or not I am an artist or a true writer based on these decisions I make for my life. Even when I decide that there are more important elements of my life than these fucking symbols I'm scrawling all over the place. Ultimately, my writing serves no purpose. I mean, even if my writing survived for centuries like Shakespeare's, I wouldn't know it and wouldn't care. Making choices that deliberately undermine myself or deliberately hurt others in the name of "honesty" and "choice" will hurt me here and hurt me now. I will know it, and I will care.

It so happens that I have a lot of writerly friends, and the other day, this Facebook status caught my eye:

Happy Birthday, Virginia Woolf! Writers, heed her: "So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery."

Well, if it's not a Headmaster or professor to whom I am deferring my vision, does that make it OK? 

I suppose the act of choosing not to write things down anywhere at any time is perhaps not the same as dishonesty, though sometimes it feels like it is. I envy writers who can write down anything, any thought in their heads, without fear of the consequences I fear. 

One bad choice. I made one bad, stupid choice (okay, I have made many, and do so all the time). But seriously, what is the statute of limitations? How many years will I continue to be punished for that choice? Of course, the fact that I have to edit myself may not seem like the worst consequence there ever was-- unless you are also a writer. 

And, perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that this is NOT the only negative consequence. 

Not by a mile. 

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