The Truth, Honestly, Really, in Writing

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In the movie “A Few Good Men”, Jack Nicholson as Col. Jessop yells back at Tom Cruise’s Lt. Kaffe, “You can’t handle the truth!” Maybe he’s right. I know I’m not about to tackle the age-old philosophical question, “what is truth” here. Not in a short blog on a writer’s website. Alas, I am no Bertrand Russell.

But for argument’s sake I’ll just say that simply put, truth is more like fact, something immutable, solid, rock-like. Truth to me seems to be a thing. One we can manipulate if we want to, but isn’t really changed because of our version of it. It’s still there in all its burning reality, whether we like it or not, whether we or anyone else uncovers it or not.

On the other hand, honesty is more of a quality, like virtue, decorum, fairness, integrity. Honesty has more to do with the way we handle this thing called truth, and it’s about being free of any deceit in the process.

While reality is what actually happens no matter what we say or do. Reality is visible, but, and this is a big but, it can be interpreted in so many ways, and so it seems can the other two.

So with all that said, in truth, is anyone really, completely, 100% honest about everything, always? That would be my question. And I suspect that what we type out on the page is one way we as writer’s attempt to deal with our truths in more palatable chunks. Be it fiction or non-fiction.

In my family we often debated the idea that being completely honest with others could be hurtful. If you told Grandma what you really, honestly thought of the bright yellow and white, polka dot, velour bath robe she gave you for Christmas, well, it would hurt her feelings, really. So maybe you could just say, “The color’s nice.”

Then again, does any of us really want to know “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” Could we honestly handle the whole truth about–well, anything? Especially all at once.

Maybe it would be better if we just took small bites of it at a time now and then. Or maybe, and this is my personal premise, maybe it goes down best if seasoned with a collection of words that let it slip into our souls slowly, like taking our medicine with a “spoonful of sugar” as the old Mary Poppins song once said.

I think that’s one reason I want to write so badly. I believe I can slip truth and honesty into a paragraph, a page, or a book full of interesting words and characters. This way I can reveal little bits of the real me at a time. Maybe if you read me closely, you will find my truths there, and maybe, just maybe, they may reflect some of your own. And in the whole process uncover deeper realities.

You see I’ve never been one of those people who could pour out my whole heart and soul to anybody, just never been able to tell all my truth to any one person. Oh, bits and pieces of it here and there in conversation, yes, but never really my deepest, darkest, or even brightest truths to another human being. Because I’ve never had one of those best-est ever friends to whom I could just say anything, anytime.

In my experience, which is all I can go on, no one really wants to know that much of us. And in truth, I’ve never felt comfortable doing that. It’s like stripping naked in front of a crowd, or worse, in front of family. Just so, I wouldn’t want to bare my entire heart and soul to them all at once either. In fact, even writing about the idea is uncomfortable.

I was raised in a modest home. A place where you were taught restraint. You don’t blurt out your deepest feelings anymore than you would suddenly stand up and take off all your clothes.

But, in writing, you can dress up those thoughts and feelings with lovely, beautiful, even garish, or bold–but always flowing, wonderful words. But they are words that, ‘in all honesty,’ can take a lifetime to digest. But I suspect if we keep reading–we will.




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