Stories: Where the Truth Comes Out

Last week I visited my brother, an uber-talented artist, in New York. A tremendous highlight was a decadent curry dinner, made by Mom and shared with a group of fellow artists – painters, writers, a poet, a sculptor, a weaver… Although we varied by medium, we had much in common — including the fact that we express ourselves through art.

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

I think Atwood’s right. If we judge what we write too much, it loses any hope for authenticity — whether we write nonfiction or fiction.

I imagine that many of us discover truths about life, our experiences and our emotions through our writing. (In other words write first, understand yourself later. ;))

This song is a prime example. I wrote it, not realizing until the last line that it depicted me:

Thankfully, I’m no longer in that place. And I sincerely believe that composing the song helped me out of it.

What about you? Do you discover much about yourself in your stories? Or do you cope with emotions, stress or conflicts by writing through them?

Leave a comment

11 Comments

  1. Wow, I didn’t realise you were such a talented musician as well! And you have such a gorgeous voice! Do you have any albums I could buy? 🙂

    I totally agree that the more guarded we are, the less authentic our writing will appear. For me personally, I’m not that self-critical but I do worry what other people might think if they read it. I’m only starting to find my ‘writing voice’ and I realised that initially the faces of my parents, boyfriend and friends would sometimes appear in my mind if I wrote anything too risque’.

    I recently wrote a story where I applied the same premise. I tried to block out the fact that people might soon read it. I’m very proud of this story. Plot-wise its not the greatest story ever, but I felt I accomplished a personal breakthrough in my own writing with it.
    You actually become your own worse enemy when you consider the thoughts of others before your own….. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Mike

     /  October 10, 2011

    Wow, great song and amazing video! Well done.

    Reply
  3. “You actually become your own worse enemy when you consider the thoughts of others before your own.”

    I can see this quote on QuoteGarden or ThinkExist one day. 😉 Well said, Nisha. And kudos on your breakthrough story!

    Thanks for your warm words regarding my music. At the moment I have one holiday tune on iTunes and a handful of others I’ll one day put on CD. I’ll certainly keep you posted.

    Reply
  4. Hi August. Boy, you’re full of surprises. Great song, and video too.
    I half agree with your idea of writing, ignoring who might read it. The other half of me thinks that we can be at our most creative when we have constraints, it forces us to squeeze the last drop from what we have, before taking an easier option.
    You’re right, we’re all in our stories. I often see writers in the stories they are writing, which, of course, they deny!
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Thanks, Nigel! And terrific point regarding constraints; deadlines come to mind…

      I wonder what your tales will reveal about you?? 🙂 (Not that I would judge, of course.)

      Reply
  5. Beautiful quote, August, but I wonder how you would actually do this, forget what you write. How would you edit? I wonder how literally she means it, or whether it’s simply a metaphor for, as you suggest, not judging your work.

    What’s the context, too? I’m sad to say I haven’t yet read “The Blind Assassin” and so I’m curious how the quote appears within the context of the novel.

    Reply
    • Also, your brothers work is fascinating.

      Reply
    • Hi Joe,
      Great thoughts. Much of what Atwood writes is metaphorical to some degree, so interpretation certainly varies. This quotation involves a writer, as “The Blind Assassin” is a novel within a novel.
      Taken literally, it’s but one character’s opinion.

      I personally feel that staying true to yourself and the story during the editing process is also key. This doesn’t mean giving up all judgment, but reading with a critical eye with authenticity in mind. That said, we should also consider our audience. Stephen King’s first writing mentor told him that the first draft if for the writer, the second for the reader. I tend to agree.

      Glad you dig my brother’s work. An upcoming post features him–stay tuned! 🙂

      Reply
      • Sure, that certainly makes sense.

        I like that quote from Stephen King’s mentor, and Atwood’s quote makes more sense to me through that.

        Awesome. I’m excited to see it. I’m fascinated by work that explores politics and religion without being too pedantic. It’s something I shoot for in my fiction, but it’s not an easy balance.

      • If you like King’s quote, you may also like his memoir, “On Writing.” Fantastic resource, regardless of whether you’re into his fiction…

        And from the sounds of it, Aaron’s art is right up your alley. 🙂

      • I do like “On Writing,” though I’ve only read bits and pieces.

        Yes, I think you’re right 🙂

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