July 16th, 2009

Mask

The Missing Pieces.

This is what I’ve been fighting with myself about.

I’ve been telling you the truth, but I’ve been leaving out all the interesting bits. For quite some time, when I’ve written non-fiction, it goes something like this:

I went to the nice place, met some nice people there, and we had a great time.

This is true, but it’s not the most interesting parts of the story. Why leave out the most interesting parts? Because I’m a coward. I don’t want to offend, upset or worry anyone. Because focusing on what’s interesting isn’t always focusing on the positive, and I don’t want you to assume that I’m unhappy. I’m very happy. But I also don’t want to start every piece of non-fiction with “Life Is Really Good But. . .”

I want to tell the truth because the truth is fascinating. It’s wild and strange. It’s beautiful. It’s also frustrating and offensive and glorious.

I should be telling you about Frank and the guy with the stuffed animals and his really hot girlfriend. I should be telling you about the short state trooper and the guy with the green do-rag. I should be telling you about the girl without a vagina and the man who cut his face and time I saw that activist naked and the pinball machine. I should be telling you about Benny and the woman who I called Sir who nearly hit me. I should tell you about the room of candy.

I think I need to refocus on the people, rather than the events as a whole. Right now I’m giving you press releases, when I want to tell you what really happened. The thing that you would notice if you walked in the room with me that one time would be that one lady there didn’t have arms. But I don’t say that. I say that I had a nice time.

It’s hard because I don’t want to embarrass or shame anyone. But can I really tell the interesting bits of the story without risking offense? What it seems to boil down to is that I can tell the truth and risk being misunderstood or I can continue being bland and pleasant. It seems simple to put it that way, but it’s not. It’s difficult to accept that you will hurt someone, that you will offend someone. This is not to say that I want to write negative things about people and events. I don’t. I want to write about what’s awesome, and who is creating wonder in the world. Right now, I’m just leaving out the details.

There have been many times when I’ve stated a fact that’s hurt someone. Who hasn’t had that problem, even on a miniature scale – telling a friend they’ve had too much to drink, or letting someone know that they have spinach in their teeth –it’s true, but it’s hard, and afterward, you feel a little mean. Doing this with writing is going to be an art. To get good at it, I have to do it, do it often, and get it wrong. But if I never do it, I’ll never get it right. Now I just need to decide how much I want it.