Liars by design

February 22, 2007

I ask before I write: do I lie for them? Do I lie for me? Or something altogether harder. There are these conflicting desires of being known, and being understood[1]. I still haven’t sorted out how much of this writer trip is ego stroking, and how much is intellectual exhibitionism.(Maybe I should have slipped a higher motive in with those two. Something classy like “Commitment to literary expression”.) As result of this some what sketchy motivation my stuff tends to oscillate between glib editorializing, absurd prose, and the occasional heartfelt essay bit. It’s a little random, but it allows me to make myself known and understood in controlled, stylish bursts.


The trick to the scattershot approach is finding a voice that is distinct, representative, and flexible enough to adapt to it’s environment. A style and tone that lets you broadcast your identity, without overwhelming the idea you are trying to put forth. You can either cobble together the identity from the fancy bits and pieces you find lying around, or, you can walk the long road and find Your voice. The latter is not as easy as it sounds, and there is no guarantee that Your voice will have a goddamn thing to say that anyone is going to care about.

  That hardest part about finding your voice is realizing how rarely you’ve used it, and how little most of what you said in your life has meant. You starting wondering who did all that talking? And why did they settle so often for empty babble.

 The irony of writers is we are habitual liars who have backed into a perfect medium of disclosure. Children who told stories to feel safe and create distance between themselves and the world. Then eventually the distance and deception created enough space that we realized everyone is lying, and the only way to really connect is to create something new and share it. So I suppose the answer to my question is that I lie for both, and strive for something all together harder. I often fail, but I do try.

[1]To be known is for the world to be aware and affected by the idea of you. To be understood is to lay your broken pieces and perversion before someone, without control or conceit. You try and swing both at once you’ll thin yourself out until there is nothing to see.

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7 Responses to “Liars by design”

  1. baredfeetandteeth Says:

    I definitely struggle with using my Voice on occasion. Sometime’s it’s easier to ramble about nothings, in some specified way, or to tailor your writing to an audience.

    I know that when I look over my older fiction, I often wonder what I was on about, or why I was comprimising myself. As a teen I was very aware of representing my family, and as a result I softened the edges of a lot of my stories and avoided certain topics all together. In University I wrote what I wanted and just quit letting people read my stuff, hating how much it said about me. I think I still do a bit of both. The only people who read my work are strangers on the internet, and one lit Prof from school (unless you count the kiddies I read my children’s stuff to when nobodies listening), and I’m fairly selective about what I post online regardless. Even my blog often makes me wonder.

    What was my point? Oh right: I think it takes a lot of work to get over the pride and self-preservational instincts that need to be gotten over in order to write honestly. Sometimes it’s easier to lie, or strap on an alter-ego.


  2. “I definitely struggle with using my Voice on occasion. Sometime’s it’s easier to ramble about nothings, in some specified way, or to tailor your writing to an audience. “

    Yeah, it’s tough not to pander when you are writing for an audience. I’m still adjusting to the observer effect, and the insidious bend that public validation can have on the creative process. The only thing that keeps me honest is how little fun it is to try and write what other people want, and how poor the end result is when I do try and pander.

    “. As a teen I was very aware of representing my family, and as a result I softened the edges of a lot of my stories and avoided certain topics all together. In University I wrote what I wanted and just quit letting people read my stuff, hating how much it said about me. I think I still do a bit of both.”

    There is a underrated vulnerability to literature. Unless it’s complete fluff, even if it’s masked in fiction, a great deal of very private motes of self and inner experience are going to make their way through. That disclosure in compounded by that fact that not only will exceptional clever people be able to read into you, possibly less clever people will misread you and form all sorts of false insights and connections.

    “What was my point? Oh right: I think it takes a lot of work to get over the pride and self-preservational instincts that need to be gotten over in order to write honestly. Sometimes it’s easier to lie, or strap on an alter-ego.”

    In literature and life.

  3. damewigginsoflee Says:

    “That hardest part about finding your voice is realizing how rarely you’ve used it, and how little most of what you said in your life has meant. You starting wondering who did all that talking? And why did they settle so often for empty babble.”

    I really, really enjoyed this paragraph, lovely — and the post as a whole. As for your writing, you seem to possess a style that a lot of writers envy. It’s strong, concise, focused — yet it has an almost poetic edge, and that’s the ‘stuff’, so to speak.

    In short, your writing is always a pleasure. Keep up the good work.


  4. Kinds word indeed, Dame Wiggin.
    They are very much appreciated; I’ve allways wanted to possess “the Stuff” in some form or other.

  5. Rebecca Says:

    “The irony of writers is we are habitual liars who have backed into a perfect medium of disclosure.”

    That is a pretty broad generalization to paint all writers as liars.

  6. engtech Says:

    Yeah, it’s tough not to pander when you are writing for an audience. I’m still adjusting to the observer effect, and the insidious bend that public validation can have on the creative process.

    It’s the lowest common denominator effect. (yeah, it’s a math reference, sowwy)

    To write something targeting it to be popular / have a large audience means that you have to go for something that is going to appeal to a lot of people. In most cases this means a dilution/watering down to something simpler.

    The best stuff almost always only appeals to a small niche, and the reason why you like it so much is because you’re part of the niche it appeals to.

  7. baredfeetandteeth Says:

    It’s not necessarily that you’re aiming for mass approval or acceptance all of the time. It’s more that you can become overly conscious of how you’re representing yourself. Which is where the alchoholic-writer’s guild comes in.


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