Sunday, May 14, 2006

on speaking up, out, often...

A wise man once said to me, "I figure the more I speak my mind, the more people will deal with it." This seemed like good sense and I vowed to try to live by such a philosophy. So often, we bite our tongues, sidestepping what we really mean, opt to say the kind thing and not the honest thing. Now, I am in no way advocating brutal honesty to the point of cruelty, as that serves no productive end. I'm all for kindness, in fact am grateful that it exists and I've been lucky enough to have known people who possessed such kindness and chose to bestow it upon me. I only hope it was also honest.

And what do I mean by honesty? The simple dictionary definition is: 1) The quality or condition of being honest; integrity and 2) Truthfulness; sincerity. In short, it is about saying what you mean and meaning what you say. As a writer, this is something I think about often. How to say what I mean, precisely, without flinching. It's not easy, as the truth is not always that interesting, at least not to anyone who's not specifically me. I've learned that just because something happened in a particular way is no reason to write about it. I applaud those writers that make real life read like a novel. It's a talent, but I am more partial to those that draw from the real to explore the imagined. With this method, one can make things turn out as they should have, or might have, or never would, with no obligation to be faithul to the facts.

I think that Neil Gaiman probably sums it up best in "A Writer's Prayer," the text of which I'll include below. If, in fact, it turns out that I'm not meant to become so talented and intriguing as Neil, I can still learn from the man. So here it is:

A Writer's Prayer

Oh Lord, let me not be one of those who writes too much;
who spreads himself too thinly with his words,
diluting all the things he has to say,
like butter spread too thinly over toast,
or watered milk in some worn-out hotel;
but let me write the things I have to say,
and then be silent, 'til I need to speak.

Oh Lord, let me not be one of those who writes too little;
a decade-man between each tale, or more,
where every word accrues significance
and dread replaces joy upon the page.
Perfectionists like chasing the horizon;
You kept perfection, gave the rest to us,
so let me earn the wisdom to move on.

But over and above those two mad spectres of parsimony and profligacy,
Lord, let me be brave, and let me, while I craft my tales, be wise:
let me say true things in a voice that is true,
and, with the truth in mind, let me write lies.