August 18, 2012

Dishonesty is Distracting (aka Imagine, Part 2)

My last post was an ode to Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer.  I found it to be a stimulating and thought-provoking read (but recently discovered that it had been recalled by the publisher due to the disappointing revelation that the author made up some of the quotes referenced in the book).  I ended my last post with plans to revisit the many passages I had marked during my first read of the book, to reflect on what those words could (still) inspire in my own creative life.

Newsflash: Dishonesty is distracting. I turned to page after page of marked text, rereading the passages and reflecting on the wisdom in the words.  I found that the wisdom did not grab at me as it had the first time I read the words.  Maybe this is because I was no longer lounging on the beaches of Greece, as I had been when I first read the book.  Maybe the ideas simply lost their freshness upon review.  What I can say for certain is that over and over again, I found myself wondering if other quotes were true or fabricated.  I found myself wondering if the research presented was accurate and fairly portrayed.  I found myself wondering if the examples given were full of half truths, or made up altogether.  I did not find myself swirling in the excitement of my own creative energy as I had the first time I read the book.

As I recognized the significance of my doubts about the validity of the data, I shifted my attention to direct statements by the author.  I figured I could at least trust that he wouldn't make up his own quotes.  Sadly, even his own voice had lost its luster for me.  I wasn't as excited by his research summaries or his observations.  The author had lost my trust, and as a result, his words became less meaningful.

So, what is my (new) takeaway?  How can these revelations connect to my own creative life? I think it comes down to the words truth and honesty.  Trust and authenticity.  When I write my own stories (and teach my own classes), I want to do so in a way that honors the implied contract I have with my readers (and students).  I want my readers to get lost in the magic of the words on the page. I want my students to get lost in the magic of learning. I want my readers and students to know that my facts are accurate and my examples are real. I want my rhyme patterns to be dependable and trustworthy.  I want my characters to ring true and my voice to be authentic.   I want my standards to remain high, no matter what markets I am writing for, no matter what venues I am teaching in.  My readers and my students deserve my best work, always.

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