And so to the crux of the matter – honesty. In some way or another, I’ve been dishonest for a significant part of my life. There are memories I have of childhood that I’m not even sure really happened, stories that I told people which now I can’t remember if I’d made them up or not, and if I did whether part of it was true, or why I even created it in the first place.

I am a good liar. I’m a terrible liar. But I’ve often tried to dodge the ‘liar’ part. I don’t know if I’ve somehow conflated lying and storytelling, or dishonesty and writing, but for whatever reason I have an issue with honesty and with writing. With honest writing.

What I was writing about yesterday, style, really is about honest writing – writing honestly, openly and completely in acceptance of yourself. It’s about exposure. Exposing the urges I have as a writer to explore fringes of myself and the world around me, which are not always comfortable and perhaps not always safe.

I’ve been making every effort to be honest in these posts. It’s vital, because as much as I’ve lied and been dishonest to other people for as long as I can reliably remember, I’ve lied and been dishonest to myself too. I’ve hidden myself, looked the other way, or scolded myself for thinking a certain way or thing – not doing, but thinking.

It’s very difficult to realise that because other people in my life didn’t understand me, I didn’t understand me. But that just because other people didn’t try, or accomplish that understanding doesn’t mean that I never can. My better half is a perfect example that I’m actually, if not simple, at least possible to understand. And so I really ought to understand myself.

Usually a realisation like this, or a breakthrough in knowing that I need to ‘accept’ this or ‘understand’ that is accompanied by me withdrawing into a solemn self-examining, a stall really, like a plane climbing too steeply and losing control. Then, because I turn everything internally, it fails. The changes in my head fail to translate into changes in my life.

With the collaborative writing we’ve been doing together, me and my other half are bringing everything out into the open. I’d never had to fully explore my ideas quite so completely as I have since we met. They never had to survive in the cold, hard light. So they never took on a full form, they never developed, they were never realised.

So much of my baggage – as I’m sure is true of all long-held issues for everyone – is like an onion, layers upon layers of stuff clouding the real problem, or the real solution. I can trust my fiancee not to react negatively to my ideas or my characters, or the places I explore in my psyche to create these things – I can trust her because I’m going to take her with me on that journey, to include her.

So much of writing (even in my new favourite book) does stress the solitary nature of it. And, for sure, the act of writing is still solitary. But it’s the very fact that we share the experience of creation that my own skills will increase, will come to fulfill their potential, because I won’t ever be satisfied with just satisfying my own expectations – there are two of us to make proud, and two of us to not want to disappoint.

Much of my issue is confidence, but this is just another layer. I don’t fear my dark fringes, or honestly really fear what people think. Actually I’m quite fascinated and excited by them, and the crucial part is now having the confidence not only to invite her in to these places but to be proud of them too, or at least of my capacity to explore them, and also never to feel ashamed or guilty or ‘bad’ because I have these places and they’re so thrilling.

Because I need these places to really fulfill my potential, to really be the writer I truly am. Because it’s exactly these areas, exposing and being honest about exactly these dark or taboo or unusual fringes which connects with people, which enables them to accept their own outer limits, their own frontiers. If I can write about what other people cannot, if I can express that which other people cannot, then I’ve got a huge and invaluable gift.

It’s about being real, about being convincing. So many books and films exist in a nowhereplace, where dialogue exists to progress story, where action happens with huge suspension of disbelief, where characters make choices which serve only to fit within the confines of the story’s arc. But the best films, books, songs, whatever, all maintain that real and convincing quality which comes of looking into the depths of your heart, your soul, and having the skills to expose that place to people who might otherwise never find such a wonderous, fascinating and enthralling place.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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