The Fine Line Between Poetry and Truth

As a writer, it’s easy to fall in love with the words.

They have such beauty to them, after all. Such form. When you say them, they sound musical. When you write them down, they grace the page. It’s like magic; the results are like a drug. They make you giddy.

Your writing is not matter-of-fact; it’s art. You are not mere scribe, but poet.

Many writers have fallen into an endless love affair with their writing. It’s no crime — it happens. It’s happened to many of us. But it is an ineffective mode for telling the truth — which is a writer’s ultimate goal, even when the truth is entirely made up.

Hemingway said it best — “just write the truest sentence you know.”

This requires you to be true to the ideas, not the words. The concepts you’re trying to get across, not the words you’re choosing with which to do so.

You must treat this as principle, as absolute: Content over words. Ideas over poetry. Always.

You can’t sacrifice the right word for the prettiest one, nor the most musical turn of phrase at the expense of saying what you truly mean.

It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of your words and steer away from the truth.

For example — Faulkner and Hemingway. Faulkner is a writer known for his love of the sound of his own voice. He wrote paragraphs that seemed to stretch for miles — on and on and on. And that’s the edited version. He loved the words so much he got lost in them, was consumed. On the flip side, Hemingway was a pragmatic man, anchored in reality and constantly grappling with it — and his work reflected that. Before he spoke of writing truth, he’d already found it — for himself.

Words are beautiful. In shapes and designs, they become art. Their beauty compounds. They take your reason away, like a hard drug; disillusioning.

Make sure you never sacrifice truth in the name of beauty, nor pursue beauty from a place other than truth.

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