After a day like yesterday, and a blog like the one I wrote yesterday, it’s hard to begin again.
I’ve talked before about how sometimes a writer’s job is simply to open a vein. Sometimes our job is simply to pour our life’s blood onto the page. It’s always what I feel I did with Naming Names. It’s what I feel I do, to some degree, in all of my writing.
Yesterday’s blog was something else, though.
Writing fiction is special.
I once heard a writer say that he was paid to lie for a living. To begin with, I wanted to scream at him. I couldn’t believe that he was saying such a terrible thing. I also couldn’t believe that anyone was buying his books. I believe the reader is better than that. I believe the reader sees through that bull. Then I realised that screaming was pointless, that the writer had limited his career with his attitude, and I need do nothing.
I believe that writers are paid to tell the truth. I believe that every story should hold a nugget of truth at its heart. I believe that the best stories hold a nugget of The Truth at their hearts. I believe that some truths genuinely are universal, that they speak to all of us in ways that we can all understand and learn from. I’m not talking about those moments that might make us laugh or cry, although some of those qualify, too, I’m talking about those moments of profound understanding.
I look for the things that I believe in and I try to convey a little of what they mean to me in my stories. The reader might see a little of the truth in a relationship between two characters, for example. He might see loyalty or brotherhood. It’s a simple enough thing.
The husband does this particularly well in his Gaunt’s Ghosts stories. I have seen veteran soldiers come up to the husband and ask him if he has seen combat. They believe he has been on the battlefield with other men because of the way he writes the relationships between the foot soldiers in his novels. He understands the truth about that kind of love and loyalty and he gets it down on the page. That’s The Truth. I admire him hugely for it.
Writing fact is a different kind of special. I opened a vein yesterday, but in a completely different way from the way I open a vein when I’m writing fiction.
Yesterday, I wanted to tell a true story and I wanted that story to speak for itself. I wanted the weight of the words to carry the sentiment. I didn’t want to weigh the story down with sentimentality.
For me, the story carries a huge amount of emotion, but those emotions are private to me. They belong only to me and it wasn’t my intention to share them with you in a way that was intimate. I only wanted to share the facts with you so that you could respond honestly in your own way.
I wanted you to see that scene as if through a glass wall. I didn’t want you to be able to touch us. I didn’t want you to be able to change what had been such an important, personal moment between me and my daughter.
I suppose what I was doing when I wrote my blog yesterday was a form of journalism.
I sometimes think of this blog as a journal of sorts, as somewhere I can share my thoughts and feelings, and it most certainly is that, but none of us actually shows our diaries to the World, and we certainly don’t share entries on the day that we write them.
I wonder what the filters are? And I wonder how they work?
Writing yesterday’s blog was a big deal for me. I knew it was a big deal while I was writing it, but I didn’t really know just how much it mattered to me until I realised how often I was plugging it, and how regularly I was checking the stats.
It didn’t just matter to me that I’d written it, it also mattered to me that it was read.
I think yesterday was the first time that I genuinely wanted people to read my blog and share my story.
So, to those of you who did read “The Gay Gene”, thank you, it was a privilege to share with you, and to those of you who were touched by my story and even sufficiently moved by it to cast it out further into the World and share it with others, thank you for that, too.
I’m sure I will refer to “The Gay Gene” again, because human rights issues and equal rights issues aren’t going to be resolved any time soon, but, for now, I’m proud that something that matters to me, matters to some of you, too. Who knows? Maybe that will go some way to changing the hearts and minds that I thought, only yesterday, could not be changed. I do hope so.