In full disclosure, I'm trying to be a better writer. Part of doing that means writing more, part of that means reading more, and part of that means learning how to tell the whole truth. The backbone of a writer isn't stacked with participles and gerunds and technical elements. Those are the tools and style manifests via those hammers and chisels. The backbone of a writer is made of ideas: the vertebrae of thought after thought, leading to the brain, holding up the body and connecting extremities to the center. If the backbone is lying, the whole body falls apart.
I'm not a truth-teller. I'm not a liar either, but I tend to polish. I tend to look at the rough edges and sculpt and finish the hard points into rounded corners so that everyone can make sure not to cut themselves on anything sharp. Maybe this is part of growing up as the baby in the family, looking in on the important decisions and family crises from the outside and feeling the only way I could help would be to make them laugh, or feel better, or at least assure everyone that No, this moment in time will not damage me for life. I'm resilient and everything is okay, even when I wanted to scream or at least go to therapy.
Maybe it's due to my utter control-freakiness. I micro-manage other people's ability to deal with the world because I want everyone to be okay, not realizing that in the process I'm showing no respect for the capabilities of my friends and family to navigate the world with their own bright heads on their shoulders.
Or maybe I'm just incredibly scared and full of shit. This is a high possibility.
I'm realizing that in order to be any good at writing, you have to let go of being liked. You have to let go of being polite. You can no longer take care of anyone. Taking care of people has been my one and only goal in most every situation I've ever faced. And taking care of them meant I had to polish.
But polished writing sucks. I actually prefer the creaky discomfort of our internal landscapes, and the flooded out reservoir of deep and dangerous emotions, and the hangover of vulnerability. I prefer unfinished sentences. Flow. The pain of life magnified by the fine, focused point of real beauty. I prefer mess.
And isn't this what we come to value in every creative piece we make? Don't we crave the freedom of telling the whole truth and not wrapping it in a bow, but leaving it out in the rain day after day until the sun comes out and dries it a little, warping its edges into a crisp curl, making the damage permanent but also part of its implicit aliveness? Isn't that the aim of every word or note or stroke of paint?
The dirty little secret about being a good writer, or good artist of any kind, is you can't divorce one part of yourself from the other. Every lie you tell in civilian life finds its way back to your artist life. It gets into the bloodstream. It shows up in your work. If we want to get good at making art, we have to get good at living life. We have to acknowledge our thought-vertebrae and align all the elements of our life with the thoughts we want to transform into art.
In full disclosure, I have no real idea how to do this. But I do know how to lie. And how to polish. And how to make everything seem okay for everyone. Maybe the magic of becoming the best creative you can be is not in reading a 10-point list, or buying a bagillion self-help books, or purchasing a course on how to be awesome at life, but by telling the truth, relentlessly. Again and again and again.
But honestly, I have no idea.