One of my favorite sayings is “Never trust a writer.” The same goes for photographers or actors or composers, whatever. Because here’s the deal: writers, rather, bloggers (let’s pick on them for now because obviously) take great care to choose only exactly what they want their audience to know. They work their butts off to make their words tidy, condensed, attractive, witty, meaningful, and inspirational.
But that’s not the whole picture. Life isn’t tidy or condensed. Life isn’t even all that pretty.
There is a line between wanting to make oneself look good and telling the truth. But the line is blurry, sometimes almost invisible. Some truths aren’t appropriate to share (TMI, you know), and details can be sloggy-boggy. Telling the truth artistically is hard especially since art is all about making impressions—good, interesting, beautiful, creative impressions. Art is about Selling Our Perspective.
I have a fairly large, built-in BS detector. I read blog posts about some blogger’s cozy Saturday mornings and look at the photographs of syrupy, stacked pancakes and I can’t help but think, “Oh, come on. You aren’t irritated that your kid woke you up with his dead-animal morning breath? The pancakes didn’t get cold and mushy while you fiddled to get the perfect shot? Show the dirty dishes in the sink! Talk about how you miffed your husband by fiddling with his pannycakes! Talk about how you used up the last of the syrup for the photos and the kids had to use honey and they acted like they were dying because they hate honey on their pancakes. TELL THE WHOLE STORY, PEOPLE!”
Maybe this reading-between-the-lines habit is a defense mechanism to protect me from getting too depressed with my own chaotic, helter-skelter, raw existence. Maybe it’s sour grapes. Maybe it’s because I know how much I don’t say.
Because I’m guilty of making my life look good, too. Not that my life isn’t good, because it is—parts of it are downright gorgeous—but I often make it look better than it really is. I beautify it. I edit my photos—to lighten, brighten, heighten them. The same with words. I leave out whole chunks of the story. I polish the parts I put in. Do you have any idea how long it’s taken me to write this post? A long time. Like, hours and days.
You’d think that with my BS detector I’d be drawn to only the rawest of blogs. But that’s not the case. I enjoy blogs that are put together, beautiful, erring on the side of too nice. They are pretty to look at, inspiring in their simplicity, clean. But I also enjoy blogs that are painful in their rawness, the ones that talk about depression, illness, and the ugliness that each of us has inside. These blogs, though, are almost always witty. I don’t know if I could handle them without the humor.
So anyway. Last week I wrote a post about the end of summer. It was a little rosy. But the truth is, I have been loving this late-summer season and feeling sorta glowy about it. So that part was true.
But it was also true that:
*the weather was a little too warm for those cozy pjs
*the bed sheets were slipping off the mattress because they don’t fit our bed right
*my husband was dumping out the tomatoes, not laying them out (though I didn’t know that until later)
*the downstairs reeked of rotten tomatoes because the little buggers insisted on hiding their rotting spots and then oozing out their stinky insides all over the shelving.
*the target-throwing game soon turned into bathtime and there was a lot of yelling, pounding on doors, and too much water running down the drain
*the end of summer equals allergy season, so we all walk around with itchy, burny eyes.
The line between art and truth is hard. Writing (photography, etc) is supposed to crystallize our experiences, focus them. And yet, the end result is supposed to be enjoyable to read (look at). So how are artists supposed to make real life, which is so rarely pretty, consumable? How to find a balance?
On second thought, maybe this is more about communication than art. Maybe it’s more a question of self-presentation than it is about Artsy-Fartsy. Maybe…?
In any case, have you figured out how to walk the line?
PS. The “never trust a writer” saying? I think I made it up. But I’m not positive.