Ideas just flow out of them. Literally.
A friend of mine confessed that the idea for her novel came to her while washing dishes. There it was, the first line, trickling out of the faucet water. I thought she was so lucky.
This morning, it happened to me. There I was, standing at the sink, washing dishes, when the first line to a novel tumbled out of my faucet. I knew I had to catch it before it zoomed down the drain but I was paralyzed. This wasn’t the first line of a novel that I wanted to write. This was the first line of a novel that would get me into a lot of trouble.
I thought of a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
I turned off the faucet and turned on my computer. Then I typed that line. My stomach sank. I typed it and I printed it. Then I put it away in a box where no one but me would see it.
And, now, here’s my point. Where is the line that an author must cross in order to write a real truth vs. just a good story? What kind of courage, or is it stupidity, does an author need to commit to a decision like that? And, more importantly, what is it that allows one author to take that crucial can’t-turn-back-now step deep into the guts of a story while another stays stymied on the sidelines, refusing to write that truth out of loyalty for the small handful of people who will probably never read it but who will be offended if they did?
And, what’s the big deal anyway?
Truth is perception, right? Most people see truth through their own individual lenses. We rationalize and analyze and hypothesize until we, finally, accept or reject a truth based on how we feel about it or how we want to feel about it. Truthful stories can reveal themselves in many different ways: raw, comical, surreal, honest, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, or just plain dull. Readers filter the words through their own experiences. Offensive to one might be inconsequential to another. So, if everyone perceives a truth differently according to the personal experiences and psychology that each reader brings to the page, why is it so darned hard for some authors to expose their version of a story with honesty? Why do I feel that I shouldn’t, or I mustn’t? Why can’t I write my version, which is real to me, without feeling guilt or anxiety over the result that my words may or may not deliver?
I’m not sure when or if I’ll take that sentence out of the box. I suppose that if it wants to be heard, it will let me know. For now, I’ll just sit tight and remember to keep my mind open to any other sentences that might come flowing into my kitchen sink.