The Writing Life

My Version of the Truth

I’ve been haunted by the word truth.

It first caught my attention when I saw an email from She Writes (a social media website for women writers) about my first Goddard advisor, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto. The blurb about her post “A Radical Act” included the following quote: “We women writers need to tell the truth about our lives.  It’s not a hobby or an indulgent luxury that we sit down to our desks and write. It is a service, a path-showing, a community we create for others.”

I didn’t click on the link even though I had been questioning rather or not I was being honest in my writing. I first began to ponder the idea when Reikko was my advisor at Goddard College. Her comments on my work helped me to realize I can be a writing prude. I’m uncomfortable writing about certain topics. Whenever I got too close to the certain truths, I back off.

Reikko’s memoir, Hiroshima in the Morning, received a lot of press because it chronicled her decision to leave her family to pursue her career as a writer. I remember watching her interview on The Today Show and thinking I could never be that honest.

Apparently God had a message for me. The next day I went to a writer’s conference, put on by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta Women Writers Group, called “Getting in Touch with the Source”. The keynote speaker, Pearl Cleage (the author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, an Oprah Book Club selection), started her talk by saying, “Seek the truth and speak the truth.”

I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. I had to admit that I neither sought the truth nor wrote the truth.

Take a look at a scene from Something’s Gotta Give. I see my writing sort of like Jack Nicholson’s character. I write a version of the truth.

Unfortunately, just like Diane Keaton’s character remarks, truth doesn’t have versions. We either aren’t honest or we water things down. And that doesn’t make very interesting or good writing.

As writer’s we have to risk losing ourselves. That may mean diving into uncomfortable topics or deep emotional wells. Remember the next five minutes of the movie after Diane Keaton leaves Jack Nicholson where she sobs continually as she finishes her play? She was writing from truth.

Writing from truth is hard. We have to leave our comfort zone. We risk exposing our inner thoughts and fears. It leads us to places we’d rather forget. It confronts us with facts we’d rather ignore. But as Reikko said in her post, “We women writers need to tell the truth about our lives.” Honest writing empowers us as writers and gives courage to our readers. And I believe that’s why God gave us the desire to write.

I went back and read Reikko’s post. She hoped her decision to tell the truth about her motherhood would open a dialogue. But the media tried to shut her down. She stood by her truth, and as a result, she received email from several women who shared her struggle. Her words gave them a voice.

Who needs your words?

6 thoughts on “My Version of the Truth

  1. As much as I agree with the necessity of sharing as much of ourselves as we can as writers, it’s not a gender issue. Man, woman, transgender – it doesn’t matter. Writing without those essential truths is ultimately empty.

    I appreciate that the post you linked to used male responses to representation of motherhood as an example, but writing from the heart and being true to both ourselves and our readers is something that all writers have to do, regardless of gender.

  2. I agree that it isn’t a gender issue. The need for truth applies to all writers. As a woman writer, I tend to focus on issues that effect women. However, I don’t want to exclude men. So thank you for the reminder that we’re all writers.

  3. Kim, I enjoyed reading this post. You were certainly honest here ;-). We all have a story to share. It’s not always easy. Often it is the case that we start to believe our half truths. We become comfortable with the watered down versions of truth we’ve been telling ourselves and others for so long.

    Through the years I have gained strength, confidence and acceptance of self from reading and hearing the ‘unedited’ version of life stories from many beautiful women—their own stories and the stories they tell through their characters in fictional writings.

    I agree, this post was very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing :-).

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