Snip Snip

Your first pass at putting down a big idea should always be lavish, expansive, unfiltered and unrestrained. It should be a riot of energy and possibility, the next exciting line just moments away from the tip of your pen.

This is where much of the joy of writing lies. This is where the catharsis happens, and it’s where the swing-the-for-fences ideas present themselves.

It’s the parts that come after this that are hard, but also the most valuable.

Honing in on what you really mean, what you really want to do, and starting to pare away everything that doesn’t fit — that’s a different vibe altogether. It’s far more austere, much more focused and careful.

It might be less fun, but this is where the big reveals happen. It’s in these careful moments, snipping away at what doesn’t belong — everything that’s embellished, or inaccurate, or irrelevant — that truth reveals itself.

There are, of course, many types of truth.

He might seem like an odd source, but Neil deGrasse Tyson, in his MasterClass on Scientific Thinking, proposes three types of truth.

There’s your personal truth, the truth of what you’ve lived and that connects you to other people.

There’s objective truth, which is actually far more interesting and difficult to pin down than most people imagine.

And there’s political truth — those things that have been said so many times, gone unquestioned for so long, that they’ve become true in an expedient and evasive way. The politics might be private and interpersonal, or they could be public and international, but either way, these are the truths we use to ignore what’s real.

Your job is always to delve into your personal truth, to pursue objective truth, and to unpick political truth until the politics are gone and only truth is left.

The three are always inextricably linked — the personal is political, as they say — and writing is one of the few tools we have that can allow us to tease them apart.

To find truth of any kind, we need to break situations down into their constituent pieces. There’s your experience of the situation, the objective facts of the situation, and the political truth (or ‘reading’) of the situation.

Only when you can understand each component independently do you have a complete grasp on what’s happening.

Only then can you piece tham back together into a cohesive narrative that you can act on.

This is the gift of writing: it allows us to follow this process for our personal lives, and to do it on behalf of others in public.

It’s a blessing, and a responsibility, and more than anything, it’s how truth gets woven into the fabric of who we are.