Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Gnat Speaks

I have the attention span of a gnat with attention deficit disorder. In fact, I'm so badly afflicted by the prediliction it'll be a miracle if I finish this post.

Considering my shortcomings it is a tribute to how good a writer she is therefore that I have stuck with Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin up to page 353, which is where I am right now. I might even finish the book, even though it's 640 pages long. I like Attwood a lot. Most of all I like her fierce intelligence, her belligerence, her intolerance of fools and the vividness and originality of her imagination. When you put it all together she comes out as a formidably good writer. I wish I could write like that.

Her novel is full of insights and brilliant observations but one in particular has given me much pause for thought recently. "The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read".

It's true. And it's one of the problems with blogging. In the old days (two years ago) a writer sat alone in the hermetic fastness of her room and penned her masterpiece, safe in the knowledge that it would be at least two years, if ever, before anyone would get the chance to comment on her innermost written thoughts. This interlude, this time lent distance. Distance inspired bravery. Bravery begat truth.

Blogging isn't like that. Your readers are on the other side of a paper thin wall. responses are immediate. Relationships are forged. Feelings are taken into account. Somewhere the truth gets lost.

Or if not lost at least spun slowly on its axis. We know who our readers are and we know what they want. Worse still, they know who we are. In some cases, better than we do ourself.

Ground down by familiarity and friendship we give them what they want to hear.

Or maybe you're braver than that. Some bloggers are, I know. I'm not sure I am one of them.


  1. She also said, Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté, which is, perhaps, not as profound as your quote above, but nevertheless true.

  2. She also said, "Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté," which is, perhaps, not as profound as your quote above, but nevertheless true.

  3. ...I'm never afraid of "truths"; I'm only afraid of lies. I want truths (assuming there is such a thing in an objective sense, which may be a big assumption) and I can't stand lies. "Honest Abe" is one of my nicknames for a reason.

    Nevertheless, as others have said: you don't often get adoration for telling the truth. I think way too many people want to be lied to. So most truthtellers must be able to handle a lack of popularity and being a pariah (which I admit I have difficulty with at times--I'm only human and my feelings do get hurt). I've noticed that my most honest writings rarely get many responses--but then I rarely get many responses in general.

    Still, I'm gonna continue doing what I've been doing; I really don't have a choice because I can't seem to live life any other way....

  4. What does one mean by "truth" in blogging? Is the mere absence of intentional lies sufficient to mark a blogger as "honest"?

    WRT my own blog, I have my name nowhere on it, nor do I ever name my place of employment, or any full names of friends and family members. I have given my blog info to no one in my family nor to anyone at my job. It's linked in the sig line of one of my email addresses, but I don't use my full name on that email account, and I don't email family and co-irkers with that addy.

    If someone were really diligent, they could probably figure out who I am from my blog. But the people I don't want reading it wouldn't bother. They don't even know that I blog.

    In sum, I have no reason to lie, so I don't. But that doesn't mean I tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I don't brain-dump every little passing notion into cyberspace. It would take too long and I have no desire to write that way. The absence of a post on flossing, for example, is not to be taken as evidence that I don't floss. (I floss twice daily, in fact.)

    So IMO, this issue of "truth" can get sticky. Am I a liar because I stay silent about my identity, or about things I don't feel like writing about? Have I censored myself by failing to write about Peak Oil or cleaning the cat box?

    I certainly don't censor myself for whoever might happen by my blog. If I wanted to blog about kitty litter, global warming or carpet lint, I'd do it. But there are far better places to read up on the big issues of the day than my little ol' blog. And the trivia of my daily life isn't usually worth my valuable writing time.

    So I guess that makes me a rather dull chica. Certainly if blogging had been around in my hard-partying twenties, I'd have had a lot to censor!

    And maybe that's part of why I write so much fiction these sdays. My fictional characters get up to a lot more interesting things than I do. And I don't censor them, either.

    Thanks for offering this food for thought!

  5. Anonymous8:33 pm

    "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the' -- Lillian Hellman (self quoting)

  6. Words can convey truth without revealing the colour of your underpants.

  7. We expect the same level of truthfulness in writing as we do in daily life: complete, except when the naked skinny might damage someone more than the information might help them. When someone asks "Does this dress make me look fat?" we don't say, "No your ass is doing that," because it's not constructive--it's not going to change anything, i.e. help, but only hurt someone's feelings.

    On the other hand, if we only cared about literal "truth"--whatever that is--we wouldn't care about fiction at all, and we wouldn't be reading your blog.

    What we want is the emotional truth of the writer--his/her authentic voice, undiluted by manners or taste if that's what's called for. If we miss this as readers, we start to get bored. If we ignore it as writers, we start to die.

  8. PS I trust your voice, Bill, so you must be a good liar. Or writer, or something. Don't stop now.

  9. Hi John, it might be goose liver pate, in which case wamting to meet a duck is even more fatuous. She is a pretty intelligent writer though, don't you think?

    Fran, I think you've found the right answer to the question I posed - do it your way because that way you're truthful to yourself, which is all that matters.

    Interesting post, bunnygirl. I don't hide my identity and in consequence I've left a lot of things unsaid for fear of hurting people close to me. I may be being too sensitive though. Besides, none of my friends or loved ones read the blog.

  10. Hi Skint, you've got me on that one I'm afraid. Can I think about it for a bit longer?

    Minx, in my defence I will say that I've never knowingly told a lie on this blog and I promise I'm not starting now.

    jta you're wise beyond your years. The truths I'm interested in are those universal one, not facts. Who am I? How did I become this way? What would I do in certain situations? Why are we like we are? Why are we here? Why? All the old imponderables. The best way to search for the truth - maybe the only way - is through fiction. Invent a world and study it for answers.

  11. I'm scared to say anything now ... and I KNOW that wasn't your intention ...

    The comments have come up with some good definitions of truth - I'll just have to carry on doing what I do - if I try too hard to analyse it, I think terminal paralysis could set in.

  12. Anonymous12:19 pm

    The truth is...I enjoy reading your blog Pundy....truth enough for me!