17 September 2008

"I saw it. I saw it with my own eyes."

I return from my several week hiatus of blogging rather exhausted from the first few weeks of a new semester, but also rather happy to be back in school. Aside from one very monotonous class where I listen to a man tangent for two hours twice a week, my classes are quite satisfactory. They are also quite time consuming, hence the lack of blogging. I return a conquering hero having not completed all my homework for the night, but enough that I can afford a small break.

As part of the scholarship I won for creative writing I am required to take a creative writing class. Shocking, I know. I had signed up to take a class from a professor I haven't studied under before but I walked into class on the first day and she said something to the effect of "if you are here to write anything other than poetry, this isn't the class for you." Well. I have no desire to write poetry any more than she would have the desire to read it. Poetry is not, has never been, and never will be my forte. I just don't appreciate it as much. No big deal. The world has many poets.

So I've managed to get myself into a creative non-fiction writing class taught by the same professor who led my study abroad to England last year. Much of this class feels like it's starting over for me on things I don't really need, simply because I've been writing creative non-fiction for long enough now that I don't really need the introduction. So I've been using much of the class time to just work on my own stuff.

Much of that is because some of the discussions in the class have started driving me a bit mad. (Prepare yourself, I'm about to sound elitist and snobbish.) One discussion in particular that was frustrating to me is one that we had last week about exactly what creative non-fiction means. Because even though it is marked as "non-fiction", there really isn't such a thing as absolute truth in memory. It doesn't exist. Our "earliest memories" may or may not be real. The way we tell an experience may be different than exactly what happened. We consciously and subconsciously re-write the past all the time.

This makes some of them feel dishonest. Because the past has to have some kind of existence somewhere, right? Everything is present before the Lord - if nothing else, He has to have a record of the absolute real truth.

But does that matter for me? As a writer, does it matter if I tell the exact absolute truth as I saw it with my own eyes or is it more important to try and capture some other "essence" of my "memories"?

The funny thing is that when I try and write about the conflict in what truth is absolute and what truth I construct for myself - it frustrates me. I can't really define it. All I can really say is that when I write, if something feels honest to me, then I run with it. Even if I know that it isn't exactly true. Take my England essays for example - there were times when I would downplay or exaggerate certain elements of a story in order to bring out other more important points. The point of an essay isn't to put a stamp on this inanimate thing you have in your head - to put words to something that is wordless - it's the same as adapting a book to film. You have these two different mediums - mind and word - and you have to find a way to reconcile the two.

It makes me wonder, though, whether God will take into account, somehow, what our memories tell us. I'm sure there are several stories in my mind that are somehow not right thanks to time and space and perspective shifts - but does that matter?

The longer I think about the word 'truth' the more I feel that there aren't many 'truths' out there that are 'absolute' in the conventional connotation of the word.

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