Start with the Truth
Don't think. Not yet.
“You will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it... Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
To be clear, Lewis isn’t talking in favor of platitudes. Nor am I.
An esteemed member of the Soaring Twenties Social Club found this gem to sum those up.
Like with traditional one-of art that suggests so much from a canvas so tiny, wise words die each time they’re duplicated.
It does us ill to place in our own throats others’ exact perspectives of what is True, Good, and Beautiful.
Rather, Lewis speaks of how the impulse to authenticity finds its way in everyday communication.
Ever spent so much time pondering what to tell someone you never end up telling them your thoughts? Ever said something with the intention of being liked and wondered what you did to be received so poorly?
If you communicate honestly, without attachment to outcomes, you’ll find the sublime expressions and impressions you will still crave if you do otherwise.
As with speech, so it is with writing. Fretting in thought to make sure the essay you’ll write is worthwhile is the way to ensure it stays unwritten, and writing what you “know” will be well-received is a fine route to penning mere platitudes.
Furthermore, editing as you write breaks the magic of unbidden flow. The gift of writing is that you have time to go back and suss out your meaning―don’t abuse it.
Write in haste, in joy of the moment. Edit later, with attention and sensibility.
Don’t worry. The truth comes out in the wash.
Worrying about unique meaning from the onset is how you stop it from emerging anyway.
Now, the first things you say and write might (and likely will) sound silly.
That’s okay. What are edits for if not to sound more like you’re on to something?
But the more you say and write, the better you get at speech and writing. The words will sound truer to your perspective the more of them you sound out.
There, in spontaneous truth-telling, lie the voice of authenticity and the root of warm reception, things you’d worry so much about if you weren’t already deep in the process of creation.
Take a thread and run with it, having only the intention to mean what you say.
See what comes out, like (hopefully) this essay here.
Great piece, couldn’t agree more. I stopped doing outlines for my essays and stories because it just hampers the “spontaneous truth telling” you talk about
So great! A friend sent me a plaque that said "it is much simpler than you think," and your piece reminded me of that - it is simple, yet we so rarely do it. I find that this groove of being true to yourself was easy to come by about 5 in the morning when all the rest of the world is asleep - at least that's when i used to write when working at/owning a bakery. Thanks for sharing your inspiring and honest words and thoughts.