It is said that photography can no longer be trusted. We’ve advanced from the era of subtle manipulations of tonality and blurring shutter speeds to the creation of enchanting fantasy worlds which as often as not begin with a photograph of your grandmother’s broom closet.
But what about writing? It’s just as bad, probably worse, always has been. Because you can start with absolutely any word you want and then stack up whatever ones you like behind it. I could, for instance, have begun this piece with the word “hippopotamus,” but I couldn’t see what would logically follow, so I chose the word “it,” which lends itself to possibility. But you get the idea: You can do anything at all with words. You can build any kind of story you like.
These Mountain XPress posts have worked their way round to being primarily storytelling, and I’ve concocted two stock responses to the question: Is that story really true?
Answer No. 1: Which part? Answer No. 2: True enough.
I can get away with that, and maybe you can, too, but don’t try to pull this stuff if you’re practicing law or medicine. If you do you’ll soon find yourself conducting business on the street. And eventually you’ll realize that you’ve chosen the exactly wrong profession, shoulda been a writer; which leads inevitably to the what-if trap. What-if I’d taken all that money invested in higher education and used it to buy wonderful No. 2 pencils? What-if I took all the time devoted to study and put it into sharpening those pencils? The unavoidable conclusion is that you’d be way over-qualified as a writer. So it’s not a road you’d want to travel.
But of course the converse is also true. A writer of stories who begins to rely over-heavily on legalistic footnotes, obscure Latin phrases and lengthy disclosure statements soon finds him or herself short of an audience and desperate for an advanced degree. And that’s a major problem because applying for a college loan with only your pencil collection as collateral is no walk in the park. I know. I’ve tried that. (Answer No. 2).