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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Truthful Blogging

Once again I'm reminded why I so much enjoy reading Julie Leung.

Only a palpably honest person expresses doubts about a writing voice and then ponders their "inauthentic false dual life". And JY posts her misgivings in such charming and genuine terms.

As if answering herself, Julie also shares with us the shrewd response she got from a Lisa - a splendidly clear and authentic voice:

"At best, blogs can be a sort of prison testament. I'm trapped here in this life. In this body. In this society, in this family, in this job, in this system where if I tell the real truth, I suffer.

Writing policies to a certain extent is a way of saying Uncle to the Man."

Truth is a question I myself wrestle with, albeit to no very firm conclusion.

First off, I thrill to the whole Pandora's Box blog culture - it's new, it's dangerous, it's fire. We rush to play with it:

Tiens! But I digress from my topic of interest - a clear and honest 'voice'.

I find it helpful to separate writing technique from the emotional vertigo of sharing intimacies.

Early blogging efforts are bound to feel 'fake': we are *writing* - creating, inventing - and most of us lack the practice at spotting what in our verbal armory works and what doesn't .

We don't write like we talk; articulacy and elocution skills are no indication of how we succeed on paper. Look at any dialog in the novels of David Guterson: sonorous and ornate on the page, but try reading even a phrase out loud and the creak of timber is deafening.

A crucial point touched on by Julie is how do we handle the risky business of going out on a limb and revealing ourselves to complete strangers?

Here, I'm reminded of a trick that Larry Olivier used for his stage performances: just before curtain up, he'd peek out into the auditorium and choose one face in the audience to whom to play. This gave him the emotional connection and focus he needed to bring a 'voice' to the rôle.

Surely, the same thing goes for blogging? How can we not distrust our authenticity of voice when we're confiding something to a faceless readership? The trick has to be to write with some trusted person in mind.

When we have some confidence to share, do we not choose a tone and vocabulary tuned to whomever we're addressing? And we also change our presentation for each new confidante, to the extent of editing and altering our content like a work in progress - all for the goal of effective communication. hamletI'm reminded of that well-worn Hamlet quote, "This above all: to thine own self be true ... thou canst not then be false to any man". Doesn't this also fit the sort of writing we're up to? If we imagine the reader - lover, family member, work colleague - and use a 'voice' and style that *they'd* find true, doesn't this give us the moral and stylistic compass by which to 'steer' our postings?

I'm constantly revising the tone or thrust of a piece, changing the focus for a more suitable 'reader', even if that person is the last reader on earth I'd ever want to get wind of my 'confession'.

I've planted Lord *knows* how many clues and references to my illogical and apparently undying (hence intensely inconvenient) adoration for the Lily of Lonely Pines, but - dude! - I'd die a thousand embarrassed deaths if I thought she'd ver *read* such puppy mooning. Gosh, just thinking of it has brought me out in a sweat ...

So what's the answer? Pick someone to write to and let that be the voice of the moment? It works for me, as does the 'odious curmudgeon' voice I affect as an all-purpose vehicle when unable to think of anyone remotely interested in my puffed up opinions on the topic at hand.

If I had to choose one blogging voice, I'd try for "Letters to my Father": adult, respectful, and grammatically correct. No bad voice to try for in Life, come to think of it.

  • The luxury of a second voice? The vocab and risqué tone I enjoy with my brother.
  • A third? I haven't yet nailed that one, but it's a dangerous siren voice for which I'd go without nourishment or company to make my own.

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