Scheduling My Beautiful Lies

March 29, 2009

I once had a discussion with a jeweler about his Kimber 1911 .45 caliber pistol. I said the firearm was elegant. He disagreed. The only reason I didn’t take it any further (despite my strong feelings on the subject) was his profession. He works with elegance every day. His perspective on that concept is more refined than mine.

But I still think that Kimbers are elegant, and the 1911 particularly so. I understand that many people will never see any weapon as elegant, and several might even hate me for thinking of a handgun that way.

Lying is another example of this kind of split in humanity. For a long time, I considered myself solidly in the anti-lying camp. Truth is so important. It’s absolutely essential to make one’s words match reality as closely as the language allows–and that’s pretty darn close. I was in the middle of a story (a true story) once, when someone said, “I think it’s important for you to speak your truth.” I was insulted. I stopped talking. Anyone who sees truth as dependent on the teller doesn’t know what truth is–it’s objective reality! If something happened, it happened, and it’s the responsibility of an honest person to relate it accurately.

I was furious when someone lied about me. I had a coworker who snowed people every chance she got, and what she said was harmful. She delighted in manipulating the truth–in lying. Because of her lies, I lost a friend, I lost the respect of my boss, and about eight months of my life were spent in stress and frustration. I hated her lies.

But, objectively, they were elegant.

I am forced to admit that some people may view lies the same way I view firearms: they’re just tools. As powerful and dangerous as they are, what matters is the character, intent, and actions of the person using them. I’m astonished with myself for writing this. Part of me is screaming, “How can any LIAR have character?” …but then, I’ve known people to blanch and leave the room when I mention that I enjoy shooting. What did they think? That I was a murderer? For crying out loud, all I’ve ever shot are paper targets! With a solid backstop so no one could be hurt accidentally!

I’m indignant, and they’re wondering how they could have missed it: they were having a conversation with a moral reprobate! Someone who doesn’t care about the pain of families who have lost a loved one, or the need for society to mature beyond an atavistic attachment to the tools of murder.

I think they’re wrong. A tool is just a tool. My ability to shoot well, and my interest in practicing the skill recreationally, doesn’t make me an evil person. There are even good things about such practice, for me personally and for society. So could I be wrong about lying? Are lies just tools? If I take care not to hurt anyone, would practicing that skill be morally neutral? (Side note: is any practice morally neutral?)

I always assumed that a lie implied evil intent. I have found plenty of support for this view in my own life. And yet I’ve decided to write fiction for a living. I’m going to lie in black and white, and I want to be good at it.

A favorite professor said, and he may have been quoting, that artists lie to tell the truth. I was disappointed to learn that the dear old man had a moral blind spot. Now I’m wondering: was there anything to what he said? Can lies be used to reveal truth? Can a lie be… good?

It looks like I’m going to find out. I’ve read (everywhere) that a fixed schedule and production quotas are essential to my success as a fiction writer. I wrote on five of the past seven days, with an average of 831 words per day and a high of 1300. My goal for the month of April is to write at least 1500 words per day, five days per week, starting at 9:00 AM. “Weekends” are flexible, for now.  For the month of April, I’m going to allow myself to include all writing, not just fiction, in the word count. I want to build momentum; I want some achievement to encourage further effort. I’m shocked to be disappointed at allowing myself less than total dishonesty.

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One Response to “Scheduling My Beautiful Lies”

  1. Pete Says:

    Lots of good stuff in here, Linnea. Very well written, also. I have no doubt that you will reach your dream of writing for a living, be it fiction (as is your passion now) or some other form of writing that will intrigue you later.

    Best of Luck.


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