Good writing is honest. To be effective it needs to say something true. “Write what you know” say the givers of advice. "I am a fireman who lost his family, so I will write about a fireman who has lost his family", say some, and that’s great. That sounds like an important and interesting story. That fireman has something to say. I take that advice more generally. As I understand it, if you know loss, write about that, or joy if you’re lucky enough. I’ve written about grieving zombies, lonely women and remorseful killers. I’m none of those things but each story poked at an emotional core that was true to me, and it was the telling of this truth, as opposed to just explaining the plot, that kept my writing and fuelled me to complete them.
With Drive going through the weird gestation I put my work through before I release them I went back to a sci-fi story I’ve been writing for years. It’s been rewound, rewritten and reorganised more times than I can remember and it is finally approaching something resembling a first draft. But I don’t love it yet. I love the world and the characters and the imagery, I just don’t know what it’s about. The End was about loss, Angela about loneliness, and Drive about lust, but I still don’t know what this story is about at its core, and so writing has turned into editing, and editing turned into inertia, but I continue to chip away at it. Inspiration for this story comes in fits and starts. It needs more honesty, some emotionally resonant core. I need to find someway to hide something true in it, because at the moment it’s just a series of things that happen in a pretty world.
I am writing something else. Something so honest it’s unpublishable. In that nothing is hidden, every word is honest to me. I probably will never publish it, but it’s freeing to write without having to obsfucate the truth and increasingly the question I ask myself as I write is that. How much truth can I obscufate? And how can I make that hidden truth entertaining? Or if not entertaining, can I make it into art? How much of myself am I willing to sell? This is problem with the money motive. Can art and profit ever really co-exist? Time will tell.