perception is truthpublished: 2012-10-01
“Brave”. “Touching.” “Impressive.” “Powerful.”
It’s always that way. When you least expect it, people react most passionately to something you’ve written. I had coffee this morning with a friend, he said how the piece I had written about my dystonia had stayed with him.
And I, in turn, didn’t know how to respond. I felt embarrassed, exposed even. Writing about your fears and vulnerabilities is hard enough as it is. But to then talk about it makes you feel like you’re taking off your clothes.
It did remind me though, of something quite essential while writing.
“I make up stories,” I told him, “that’s what I do as a writer. And so I always find it confronting to discover that when I write about myself from the heart, people react more strongly than they otherwise do.”
A few months ago, I started writing a new novel. I wrote 10,000 words, threw them away and wrote another 10,000 words. Then, I gave up. It was a dead end. While writing, I was painfully aware while writing that I was not writing the truth.
I had tried mixing a few truths. Years ago, my very best-friend broke off all contact with me without ever telling me why. I still dream about her, last night even. Then, I had met an old woman who’s son had broken off all contact with her. She died a desperately sad woman. I had tried finding him for her, but didn’t manage. I myself have a son. It is my greatest fear that he should decide to no longer want to see me. And so here’s what I did: I wrote about a self-obsessed flamenco dancer who’s son had broken off all contact with her.
But why had he? That question burned on my screen.
I did my research, studied why people break off all contact with loved ones. Usually, either they are borderliners or the person they need to delete out of their lives harm then. Drugs, alcohol, abuse, neglect. Was my friend a borderliner? Or had I been abusive?
I couldn’t answer that question. Apparently, I wasn’t ready to tell the truth. The result being that the book was leading nowhere. My publisher tried to convince me to write about the friendship. But no, I’m a writer, I make up stories! Don’t I?
Today, the guy I had coffee with said, “some people say perception is truth.”
We both agreed it isn’t.
Read my piece ‘Blame it on Botox’ about my spasmodic dysphonia (SD) here: Beat Dystonia website