Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, February 4, 2003 10:12 pm

Nothing but the truth

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:12 pm

A lot of bloggers, particularly those who blog under pseudonyms, post things that sometimes aren’t literally true. That’s not as weird as you might think. Many bloggers are aspiring writers of fiction who use their blogs to test how well or poorly they might be able to take inspiration from something in real life to write something that, although not literally true, gets at some kind of larger truth.

The (possibly pseudonymous) author of one blog I read regularly recently addressed this issue. He often posts things that aren’t literally true, and I’ll let him explain why:

One of the best rules [another blogger] practices is: “I do not give away secrets or punish with prose.” I think this is an important point. Nothing goes away online, and the impulse to publish things immediately can get in the way of judgment. This is the main reason that I fictionalize a lot of what I write here. Names are changed, chronology is screwed with. There are parts that are true and parts that aren’t, but if I write something true here, it’s likely that the only person who will know it is the person involved (sometimes I’m writing specifically for that one person who will know that it is true). But if you read something here and you are wondering whether it is true or not, assume that it isn’t. If it were true you would know it. …

Ken Kesey wrote, “it’s the truth, even if it didn’t happen,” which is a nice description of why fiction is important, and why people bother writing it in the first place. I really do believe that fiction is more real than fact, and that its effect, when you get it right, is truthful. This site isn’t exactly fiction, but you’re dealing with a very unreliable narrator here. The kind of narrator who locks himself out of the house, who drinks too much and holds grudges and is late to appointments and who has said “I love you” dishonestly and kept quiet when he should have said “I love you.” And you do the same thing every day. So let’s be false and untrue and trust one another, even though we know better.

That’s as wonderful an explanation for writing fiction as I’ve ever read, not least because it requires the reader to assume a certain level of responsibility for the relationship that will exist between writer and reader. More writers ought to do that, I think.
But the passage does raise the potentially discomfiting question of whether everything on this blog is true. Literally true.

And the answer is this: Either it is true, or I believe it to be true.

Now, that’s not to say you’re always going to get the whole truth. Sometimes I can’t give you the whole truth, or what I believe it to be, because doing so would create an appearance problem, if not an actual conflict of interest, for me and/or my employer. Sometimes, I withhold part of the truth to maintain at least a semblance of privacy for myself, my wife, my kids and other family members, many of whom read this blog regularly. (You didn’t think my visitor numbers were all driven by total strangers fascinated by my scintillating prose, did you?) And sometimes I do it because I think it wouldn’t be interesting … or because it’s none of your damn business.

And to me that’s OK, because the point in this operation is not so much whether everything is both literally true and the whole truth. The point is whether it illustrates or highlights or opens your eyes to some other, preferably larger, truth. Bruce Springsteen puts it a little differently: Trust the song, not the singer. I won’t lie to you, but I may not tell you the whole truth, either. Regardless, if anything I’ve written sings to you, trust that — and know that for me, then, it has been a good day’s work.

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