Lately, I’m getting some feedback from people close to me and it goes something like this: can’t you make it clearer when you’re posting a piece of fiction as opposed to when you’re just writing your blog. I get partway into something you wrote and think – what the hell! Then I figure out it was fiction. Someone actually wondered the other day if our dog was OK – like maybe the flash fiction piece – Helplessness – had been based on real life events. And lately Bruce is surprisingly quiet about the laundry baskets full of clothes hanging around the place.
I admit to simply bursting out laughing at this feedback. In the first place – what the hell! – is a reaction that is pure music to a writer’s ears. Bring it on, readers. I’m lapping it up like a kitty by the cream dish. And in the second place – where is the line between fiction and reality in the blog world?
I think that’s a good question for those of us who do blogs about writing to consider. All writing is a few steps away from any reality it might have originally been based on (and don’t even get me started on the socially constructed nature of all reality in the first place) – and that includes nonfiction writing. All writing is words sifted through a particular person’s filter. I can’t write anything interesting enough for you to read that hasn’t gone through this process.
If I write a post that claims I went to Crater Lake National Park – well, you can be confident that I did in fact go to Crater Lake National Park. If I tell you about something that happened there – OK – now we’re on the slippery slope. Whatever happened – it happened to me. Everything single thing about the event – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the emotions, what was chosen to be remembered and what has been left out – all of it has been interpreted and then reinterpreted through me in a process that loops over and over on itself like a Möbius strip.
When I decide to actually write about what happened, the whole process starts looping away again in an entirely new way. Writing is a unique way of communicating. It isn’t like phoning someone up and telling them a story or sitting with your friend at Starbucks and saying, “Oh, guess what happened to me the other day?” Writing is about structuring an event – giving a coherent beginning, middle, and end. Highlighting one aspect and letting another go by the wayside – all in the pursuit of a good story.
I’m not saying a nonfiction blog isn’t true simply because I describe it as a structured story – I’m only saying – be careful how you think about truth. Everything you hear, everything you read – it’s all sifted through someone else’s lens, all told or written with a certain purpose in mind. Sometimes I’ve thought that fiction – a well-thought out story – might be the best truth around. I’ve read fiction that said far more to me about the world than any newspaper or research article ever did.
I am reminded of the words of Arthur Frank – to tell a story is to draw others into relationship with you. Like so many other bloggers, this is what I do every time I post – invite you into relationship with me, in the hope that you will take whatever kind of story I tell you (fiction or nonfiction) and let it work some meaning into your life.
Let me know if I succeed.
Reality or fiction – are these guys for real or maybe a trio of actors on a break? Who knows where to draw the line?