I’ve been carrying this post around inside me for a while, thinking a lot lately about truth. Like everyone, I guess, I’m drawn to a notion of truth that is sturdy, pure, unyielding. You can build a nation on the kind of truth I’m drawn to, expose corruption, solve mysteries, fight evil, save your soul, set yourself free. It is powerful, inalienable, solid.

And I’m not sure it actually exists.

I had a falling out with a friend. “A falling out” doesn’t feel like the right phrase, but for purposes of discussing truth, it will do. We, my friend and I, shared the experience of our relationship, its ups, its downs, its ultimate demise. We shared the facts of it, but our stories are drastically different. I feel sure that my version, which does acknowledge my role in the drama, is right. True. It stuns and humbles me that my friend believes his version is true as well.

As a writer, this question of truth presents particular challenges. I believe that writers cannot shy away from the truth. Even in works of fiction, the goal is truth. A writer must depict humanity honestly (and lovingly, I think, despite all our obvious shortcomings, but there may be room for debate on that).

As I blog and begin to write more personal pieces, I come to this place of questioning again and again: how truthful, how open and brave and unflinching, am I willing to be?

I just finished reading Stephen Elliott’s memoir, The Adderall Diaries. In his (open, brave, unflinching) book, and elsewhere, he talks a lot about truth. He says the people in his life should expect to be written about. He usually changes their names, and his intent is not to hurt anyone, but sometimes he does. He is prepared, always, to accept the consequences of his writing.

I wonder if that’s what it comes down to… being willing to accept the consequences of writing your truth, realizing that it is, in fact, only your truth. I asked a friend if it was hard to write honestly about her mother. She said, “No, but I waited until my mother was dead.”

I know this: truth is related to, but not synonymous with the facts. It may be universal but it is also deeply personal, and conveying it – in writing and in life – requires bravery more than poetry. It requires being open and curious and, I think, maybe generous. It involves an acceptance that truth does not lie simply in a statement of facts, but rather it is mixed up in our understanding of those facts, our experience of them. Truth is its own concoction, part verifiable details and part psychology, emotion, personal history. Truth is in our blood and bones and breath; it is the space between words just as forcefully as it is the words themselves.

Writing (and living and loving) truthfully is a commitment. It’s not necessarily about sharing everything with the world, but it does mean giving fully, openly, compassionately what we do share. It is the attempt, I think, to shine a light so everyone can see… even knowing that what we see, each of us, won’t be exactly the same.

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