I am a firm believer that as writers, we tell ourselves things we didn’t know we already knew. It’s an amazing gift we give ourselves and each other–to discover or remind ourselves of truths our subconscious minds had temporarily locked away.
Great pieces of literature are easy to distinguish in this way. We may find as readers that stories resonate with us in that non-verbal part of the brain, causing powerful emotions to stir when suddenly these truths are given words. Articulation. I first felt this when I read the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Every time I go back and read her work again, I’m reminded of the power words have not just over our conceptions of reality, but on a deeper, spiritual level that speaks to the essence of our humanity. I would go as far as to say that literature has the power to tap into a collective subconscious where all our knowledge of the world that has never been given light becomes illuminated.
Perhaps that seems like a bold thing to say. Not everyone speaks the same language and not everyone is literate. But everyone is human and capable at some point in his or her life to have these moments of reflection or introspection that are often inspired by art.
I don’t think that most people outside the literary world would automatically think of writing as an art. But of course it is. Paper is our canvas; words are our paint. Creative impulses manifest in different forms among artists, but carry this same truth-saying power. For some it may come in the form of a narrative, for others a drawing or a sculpture, for others, still, a symphony.
But what exactly do I mean by truth? It is this five-letter word that carries so much meaning, but evades precise verbalization. Quite a conundrum. To add to the paradoxical nature of truth is the notion that it can be found in fiction. Truth is not the same as fact. Truth, to me, is as Dickinson writes, that “certain Slant of light,/ Winter Afternoons –/ That oppresses, like the Heft/ Of Cathedral Tunes–“ And perhaps to me and Dickinson and her other fans, this has sort of become a fact in that we regard it to be as true as any arbitrary date in a history textbook. Where truth differs from fact, though, is its ability to transcend language, culture, and time. Facts, although in ways more tangible, are in many other ways even more elusive than truth when we consider Einstein’s theory of relativity. If we strip away time and space, many facts become irrelevant, while many truths remain the same.
Part of being a writer, or any artist, is being able to recognize the power of the form to convey truth. Just as people have different tastes in visual art, the same is true of literature. Fiction or non, poem or novel, classical or contemporary bears no limits to truth-telling potential. When I think of how different aesthetic value may be from person to person, writer to writer, I am reminded that the truths we tell are best picked up by those that share our same tastes. To be a writer, then, is less about being some type of oracle or soothsayer, but rather a fellow human being. Writing is not the solitary act it is made out to be. In fact, or better yet, in truth, writing has been the most rewarding communal activity of my life.
It can be argued relentlessly whether beauty is truly
subjective or not. To bring science into the mix seems to only muddy the waters for me. I prefer to think of it in this way, as John Keats told us years ago:
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
About this Guest Poster:
Jaclyn Lyons is a writer, blogger, editor, perpetual and professional student. She has an BA and an MA in English Literature and another MA in Literature and Environmental Philosophy. She’s currently enrolled in a Library Science (MS LIS) program, but she will still always identify herself first and foremost as a writer before any of the ways she earns a living because she believes writing is more about who you are as opposed to what you do. She hopes to get a short story published this year and has a novel running wild in her brain that is begging to find its way to paper.
You can reach Jaclyn in the following ways: