Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Truth or Dare?

When I was in junior high I first heard about this game played at parties, "Truth or Dare?" (I was rather cloistered before then.) I never played it--nor did I ever observe it being played. I often wondered if I ever did get to play, would I take truth? Or would I take a dare? I never knew for sure. I think because at that time of my life I didn't want anyone to know anything about my real life, I would've taken a dare. Anything to keep my real life obscured. I would rather do something daring than to reveal my true thoughts, feelings or things about myself.

At that time was also when I was writing in earnest. I poured out my heart onto pages and pages of notebooks. I wrote fiction, memoirs, feelings, observations--anything! I could easily write 10 pages at a time, only quitting when I became exhausted and fell to sleep. I also was sketching on everything. I loved drawing.

When I was 18 and a week before I went to college, I remember that I took every single one of those stacks of notebooks filled with my writing and sketches, and burned them. No one was home at the time, and I had plenty of time. We lived in the country and we had a barrel for burning consummable trash. I made sure every page burned. I made sure no one would read one word or see what I drew. I had only shown these notebooks--and only selected pages--to a cousin visiting on furlough with her parents from Africa. She told me that I had inspired her to write her own stories--and she has published many articles and children's books--all related to her denomination. I am proud of her. She fulfilled a calling. She did what I only dreamed about doing.

In the years since then, I've published tons of articles,comic strips (high school newspaper,) columns, book reviews and written reams of unpublished works. I had dreams of publishing children's stories. I wrote a bunch of them. I even had a few book proposals. But those were not something I was going to get to fulfill through publishing. Markets, timing, and probably poor vision on them defeated them. I have not burned them, but someday when I'm dead, someone will probably do that for me. (Well, maybe a few of them were lost on old floppy computer disks.)

On Monday I posted my 60th blog and I took a step back to see what this has accomplished. Sort of an evaluation on my road to writing and actually publishing something. It has been a road dotted with pleasant sidetrips, squirrels, cows, books, favorites and a couple landmines(a couple blew up on me. Don't ask.) Some of the twists in the road surprised me. Some frightened me. (I have two posts I have not put up--I'm not sure if I should or ever will.)

I have appreciated every single reader and love getting the feedback/commentary. Voice? Do I have voice? Yeah, someone told me that I do. Early on I asked if readers would help me to decide what I should be writing. What do you like reading that I write? Doing a blog enables me to get feedback on what I have to say. I write these fast and don't think too much about what I'm going to say--I just write it (and you probably can tell.) They say if you write what you love, you will have no problem writing it. It is true. I can actually point out my favorite posts.

I decided after asking readers if they would judge samples, to just post stuff,share photos and see how people responded to my memories, observations and stories. Not all of the memories, observations or stories are necessarily accurate--and are not newspaper reports--they are skewed by my imagination, opinion, background and emotion-laden memories. They are limited by my own processing of events and photos. Most of it is not sale-worthy. I think I have one post that several actually told me should be fashioned into an article (and I did do this with that piece a few years ago--but it was rejected across the board. I really appreciated it that people liked it, though.)

I have been evaluating fiction for a while now. I have worked for agents, editors, published and unpublished authors, and even judged in a couple contests. I "fix" other people's fiction. In doing so I know what makes fiction work. Many of those manuscripts I tinkered with have gone on to be published now (or will be.) It is satisfying to me. But. I still want my very own fiction. Something that is written and filled with my own viewpoint and voice and stories. Something I tell that I want to tell. Because I had read so many books (having published around 500 book reviews--and having read much, much more than that,) and because I've "fixed" so many manuscripts, I had lost my own voice. I had lost my own stories to tell. I had become a chameleon and merely adapted to my environment. But this blog helps me to find my own voice again.

The other night I was out with a friend who does not write. She doesn't have a desire to write that I know of and I don't think she even likes writing the short emails I get from her. (My husband is this way, too. My husband doesn't like reading books, either. She at least likes reading.) My friend is my prayer partner and because I shared with her my angst over what I write, or should be writing, in the form of a prayer request, it came out that I didn't want to go back to teaching--and why. I told her story after story of tragedies from my classrooms--and the heartaches it caused for me. I have this way, however, of lacing almost all of the stories with self-deprecating humor. (There are some stories I cannot tell without crying, however. And I find no humor in them.)

I can always depend on this friend to tell truth. She would probably choose truth in playing the game. And the truth would be noble and just and laced (or skewed to the positive side) with love. She said I should tell stories like the ones I was telling her. She said people needed to read these stories because in reading them they would have something to relate to for their own troubles. While they didn't solve someone's troubles, it would be enough to know someone understood and could still laugh and cry with them.

So, I'm still thinking about this, and still trying to figure out what form, what genre, what way to take in the telling of these stories. And to tell them before I leave this life. So, truth or dare? If I were playing the game, what would be the truth I have to tell? And if I take the dare, what would I have to do? I don't know, even after now 61 posts.

What would you do? Which one do you choose? As I read some of the paths other people have taken, I find my own answers. But I find myself looking at something new in other people's writing--is the author telling truth? Or did he/she take a dare? It is important in establishing the type of writing you/I do and in the way it is told. Sometimes it is difficult to quantify. Sometimes it involves both truth and dare!

Truth? Or dare? Which do you choose? Which should I choose?


Sheryl said...

Excellent post and, in my opinion, being vulnerable enough to share the truths of our lives through story is a "dare."

Your friend is right. People, especially in this day and age when we are so busy and disconnected from one another, desperately need to know they are not alone. Story can communicate both shared vulnerabilities and triumphs like nothing else.

I pray God's richest blessings on you as you continue to find your writing "voice."


Anonymous said...

I agree with your friend, you should tell those stories. I've always heard you should write what you know and like she and Sheryl said, people like to know that they aren't alone.

I think that whatever you decide to do, you'll do it well. From what I've read here in your posts you have a great talent for telling stories.