Masks and Writing

At our state writing conference this year, we had a very odd keynote speaker. His rhetoric on being a liar was, at first, funny but then the longer he went on about it, the less funny it became. I wasn’t impressed at the time and yet, everything he said somehow resonated as being true.

As writers, we are all liars. We create worlds, lives, relationships, settings, emotions, connections, etc all day every day that don’t really exist anywhere except in our imaginations. We live walking on that line between reality and fiction.

Sometimes it’s hard to pull out of it. I imagine, in some ways, it’s much like an actor or actress playing a part. We put on a mask.

Social media is ripe with people wearing masks. Everyone is busy promoting themselves as the next greatest writer in the world, the most helpful writer, the most encouraging writer, or whatever and yet, in reality those same people at home are none of those things. They’re sad, lonely, depressed alcoholics who are trying desperately to fool themselves along with the rest of the world. Maybe.

Sometimes, maybe, they’re not even writers at all and just want to hang out with writers. Like groupies or something. I don’t know.

Or maybe they’re not quite that pathetic. Not everyone is.

The point is we all wear masks when we’re out in public. On Twitter we show one face, on Facebook it’s another, and in emails it’s something else … it’s like the difference between sitting in the living room in pajamas and actually putting on clothes to go the grocery store. (although there are plenty of people in my town who don’t bother … sigh) Still, you have manners in public that you sometimes ignore at home or in familiar circumstances. It’s just how it is.

And writers seem to be good at it.

I’ve learned the hard way not to trust the masks, sometimes not to even trust the actions behind the mask. In a way, that’s sad. Innocence lost and all. I’m a trusting soul. And I care about people regardless of their circumstances or actions. I like to see the best in people.

But it’s really hard to see anything when they’re wearing a mask.

I’ve been through victim workshops before where they teach you to pick up on clues people give out, recognize patterns of behavior, see red flags, and yet, when I’m in the middle of a conversation with someone, I tend to ignore all those things. It’s dangerous. My alarm bells go off and I ignore them.

Don’t ignore them. But don’t be paranoid either. Chances are most people are just using their manners and not trying to hide something sinister.

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