Two things struck me this morning as I got ready. One, I’m a liar. And two, I’m a creature of habit.
I think all writers are, by nature, liars. Or at least fibbers. We have to be to make all these things up. Yet I’m guessing that not all writers or even liars, and certainly not good moms, teach their children to lie.
Last night I lied to my Middle Son right in front of Youngest. And Youngest caught on admirably for his wee age and joined me in the ruse. Oh Hannah, slap on the shackles and take me away to the naughty mommy farm. I don’t deserve these precious kids.
Anyway, we were in the store picking up last minute gift tags, tape, school holiday gifts and a present from Youngest to Middle. During the “what to buy the school kids” debate, both boys decided they wanted a Bakugan–for themselves. (Which could be spelled wrong, as I don’t really know what these things are, other than a boy game with little balls that smash into each other and “break”.) Middle in particular wanted these delightfully expensive toys.
When he walked around the corner, I whispered to Youngest that he could get one for his brother for Christmas. Like all kids with big ears, Middle returned and demanded to know what I had whispered to his sibling. With a straight face, I said, “I told him I would buy it for his birthday.”
Youngest, with an equally straight face, continued. “I really want this and it might not be here for my birthday. Mom says I can’t open it until then.”
I worried that he believed my lie and I was now locked into buying this set of “broken” toys for a January birthday when all I really wanted was to get out of the store with my Christmas shopping done.
Youngest turned to me and winked. What a LIAR HEAD! I had never been so proud of his cunning. Then I panicked. Maybe lying is genetic.
Truly, I think it might be. At least the propensity for it. Otherwise how would he have done it so smoothly at the tender age of five? Without prompting?
I won’t get into the moral issue of fibs, white lies, exaggerations, sarcasm, falsehoods or whoppers, in part because I don’t know if one can truly distinguish one from another. A lie is a lie no matter how small and regardless of purpose. Or is it?
The Easter Bunny. That dress looks fine. I like your new haircut. Nope, I’m not mad. The fish was this big! Need I say more?
I’ll just say that I’m less concerned with the collusion that Youngest and I perpetrated than with habitual lying. Partially because habits can be troublesome if they are of the wrong ilk. I like some of my habits. For instance, I don’t have to remind myself to brush my teeth. It’s one of those good habits. Followed by shuffling into the kitchen to make coffee, getting the kids up and blogging (when Real Life does not intervene.)
This morning, I shuffled and measured. Mindlessly. DH is gone and yet I, a creature of habit, didn’t adjust for his absence with the coffee. I still made ten cups, because to do otherwise would actually call on brain cells that otherwise don’t get activated for this task. Hence the word habit.
I am a creature of habit and I lie. This morning, I choose to applaud these quirks. I think they make me a better writer. I write (or engage in other writerly activities) almost everyday.
Without this habit, my writing would still be in the “hobby” stage rather than the “serious-about-getting-published” stage. This habit has made me a better, stronger and more active writer.
Now for the lying. Not quite so easy to justify, though if I creatively give it another name I can tweak it to sound amazing and admirable. Please follow my logic:
Okay, you get the picture. Writers are amazing at conjuring up what if scenarios and pairing them with endearing characters and enticing plots. All made up in our heads. And if it is not real, then it must be false and any falsehood, by definition is a lie. See how this circle works?
By nature, writers use their gifts to tweak reality and stock shelves across the world with fiction. We expand on the truth, for every book has a small kernel of it, and give our readers a delightful surprise.
Imagine how thrilled Middle Son will be to tear away the wrapping from his gift and find his heart’s desire. That is how writers want their readers to feel. When we can elicit that same excitement from between the covers of our books, we will feel the heady rush of joy that Youngest will feel on Christmas Eve.
My gift to you this season is the permission to lie. Habitually. Use your talent to expand on reality and create magical worlds with endearing characters and enticing plots. Believe me when I say that in the world of writing, fabrication is a good thing.
What gift do you wish to pass on to your fellow scribes?