Workshopping the Truth

Robert McKee said that ‘Storytelling is the creative demonstration of Truth’. He is not the first wise man to suggest that there is a worth in truth, an emotional price that tends to move us, force us to feel something, whether pleasant or unpleasant. In the case of true works of art, perhaps the point is complete if we are moved to feel anything at all.

And so as I try to amass a wardrobe of writing essentials and versatile accessories I am mindful of the hangers on which I display them. The poet Auden spoke of truth telling that should ‘disenchant and disintoxicate’. It sounds daring and brave and yet doable in the save haven of one’s own privacy. When the words are free to confess, converse, and contrive a truth possessed only by me.

When the same level of truth is to be exposed in a workshop forum, then a whole new dimension descends; an overcoat of self-consciousness weighs in. The writing wants to wear a different outfit, something more conservative, acceptable to the occasion and altogether less daring. There is a risk of turning up in the same pitiful strait-jacket time and time again. Maybe nobody notices.  In any case we alone are the best judges of the truths we own.

In whatever we write, we give something away and so in a workshop arena we always expose ourselves to some degree. It’s rarely comfortable and often regrettable. But maybe the key is to acknowledge the niggling honesty of our own instincts and tune into the feedback that echoes those doubts. And so learn that that’s where to focus the re-edit energy and prod ourselves a bit closer to the truths we aspire to expose.

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