The “self portrait” photo prompted me to peel open the cover of my copy of The Portable Nietzsche, translated by the irreducible Walter Kaufman. Here’s a selection from Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense” that goes right to the heart of how I, how we, how people, experience “truth:”
What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms—in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.
We still do not know where the urge for truth comes from; for as yet we have heard only of the obligation imposed by society that it should exist: to be truthful means using the customary metaphors – in moral terms, the obligation to lie according to fixed convention, to lie herd-like in a style obligatory for all…
The Portable Nietzsche, p.46-7
Agree or disagree with his statements, the man wrote with *style*. I happen to agree, since I see “truth” through the lens of objective probability.
I made a commitment yesterday: ≥500 words of creative writing a day. (I made other commitments, too, but I’m making this one public because I want witnesses).
It doesn’t have to be all in my novel (writing in here counts, too), but it does have to be creative. Or thoughtful. Or at least not business-oriented. I do a lot business writing every day, and the purpose of creating a creative writing goal is to expand into concepts and words that go beyond the business case or the project plan or the almost continuous emails. I hope to expand beyond my novel, actually, in order to give my mind a break when I’m stuck with a scene or with the plot. Shifting gears into a poem, a short story, an essay, or even a philosophical aphorism may allow me to continue writing without the writing feeling forced.
That may mean more writing on this blog. Which, let’s be honest (or at least, let me be honest with myself), wouldn’t have to be much to be considered more.
Left to my own devices for even a short time the ideas stream in and the story becomes real again. So real I can sense it. So real I can feel it. So real I am part of it. So real that the words flow out like quicksilver.
I used to be able to write thoughts and even stories with minimal wastage. The concepts in my mind flowed smoothly into words. Now I struggle.
Am I out of practice? I know that I am. I hope that’s what the problem is. I can fix that.
It all connected and flowed—the scenes, the characters, the story and the plot, the little details—and coalesced into a compelling narrative in a way that was frictionless.
Several people I follow on Instagram are visiting London right now. Their images make me heartsick for a city I lived in just long enough to fall in love.
“The way you write…. It feels like there’s something more there. It feels like you’re holding back,” my mom said. The connection was silent for a long moment as I considered those last words.
I was defensive, which I took to be a sign that she was right. At least partly so. Most likely completely so.
“I’m not sure if it’s holding back,” I tried, “I think it’s distractions more than anything else. My thoughts are too scattered to really focus and write exactly what I’m thinking.”
Even as I said it I knew my reasoning was only partly true. I am busy and distracted—by work mostly. Also by my family and other projects and priorities. And I should be distracted by work (food, water, shelter and all that) and by my family (love, companionship, fulfillment, and so much more); it’s those “other projects and priorities” that hold the rest of the truth. The hard question for me is this: do I pursue those unnecessary distractions because writing isn’t important to me or because I’m afraid to fully invest myself? Why, precisely, am I holding back?
Assuming that writing is important to me, is it fear of criticism or rejection that prevents me from writing without reservation? Is that why I’m creating convenient roadblocks?
Assuming that writing is not important to me, why am I spending so much time thinking about it and writing about it? (Ha! Writing about instead of just bloody writing. The typical philosopher’s dilemma: too much armchair.)
As I write this my mind and my heart both tell me the answer is A: I’m deeply invested in writing but afraid of devoting myself to it. So I hold back because that feels safe—when I should be putting myself out there, testing my limits, pushing myself to be better, especially because failure at this time is so cheap. My livelihood isn’t tied to my writing. The only negative consequence of poor output would be a lack of interest from others, which is actually the best indicator that I’m not writing in the most compelling way. Which means more practice. Every day, really.
And no holding back.