Saving Face

Chris Nicholas at Renegade Press writes of the Three Faces of Japanese proverb: The face one shows the world, the face one shows family and friends, and the face one never shows.

My own opinion is that certain writers always wear particular faces. As a reporter, I wore objectivity as  face since it is a disservice to the readers to pour one’s opinions and biases into the news. A poet wears the inmost face in writing, and perhaps a different face when being interviewed.  The memoir writer – there’s where the third face, the inner being, is necessary for the sake of honesty.

Nicholas writes:

It’s this [third] face that you need to be prepared to show the world if you want to succeed as a great writer. This face is completely naked, vulnerable, and utterly beautiful. But for some bizarre reason it’s one that so many of us are afraid to reveal.

I agree with his essay in many respects, but I don’t think the world needs to see a writer’s inner face. The reader often does, but just as often the words pierce the first two layers of the reader’s face and find the hidden one.

As for being completely vulnerable while writing – it doesn’t work for me any more.

Mr. Nicholas writes, “(W)hy are we so afraid to be vulnerable? Is it that we are scared of the judgement of our peers? Or is it that we are simply afraid to be free?”

I contend it’s the fear of not just judgment but that your peers will disfigure your first face – not with critiques of style or form or theme, but questioning everything down to your DNA.

The meltdown in my writing came not after I had editors. Nor was it at public readings. Not even when I did an awkward radio interview beside “real” writers.  It came after I joined a writer’s group in hopes of transitioning from poetry to prose.

I learned about what Julie Cameron refers to a  “creative monsters” and I sincerely wish I’d heard of them BEFORE I joined the group. Two in particular encouraged everyone to get naked and then pointed out the flabby spots and the blemishes, even as they proudly parade their open-sores and sagging bums.

It was an unreal experience, drawing to a head when the group leader criticized me personally as not a “real” writer because I owned a crappy computer, found it difficult to write after visiting my dying grandmother (and more so after her death), etc. Then she lashed out at everyone else. Then she quit.

(Looking back, I can laugh at some of the drama. Like how one of her supporters “accidentally” e-mailed everyone a very polished copy of the final scene of her novel. Or how she kept herself on as moderator of the online portion, so she could read everyone’s posts and later express concern that some of us were plagiarizing her work.)

So my third face – who I really am – is the face I wear when I write, concentrating only on the writing. My first readers are family and friends, the ones who really know me. When I publish, I put on the second face, but over that I’m ready to slam on the first face – which isn’t really a face at all, but a dented and patched armour.



2 thoughts on “Saving Face

  1. I thought the proverb meant no one ever truely knows anyone else. Went back and read the original post and quite agreed with him that many artists let it all hang out. On paper or blog it sounds lovely, but very much doubt the world will be improved if all artists go naked. The artistic temprement is no joke, Jean. I anticipate next week the vis-a-vis with an “artiste”. Being of the ungodly persuasion, I’ll put you to work on your knees. There’s got to be a patron saint for designers. PS by better half and our spawn say hello.

    • Freddy, I see that vis-á-vis is French for “encuentro cara a cara” (I also put the accent right; it was backwards – ha ha! A little español humour for you.) I was going to pray to St. Denis, the patron of designers, but maybe there’s a patron saint of people about have their faces mauled by bears… erm, artists. I would do the job myself, but in order to be Patron Saint of Jerks, I have to be dead. Don’t rush me, Fredster.

      However, I must say I was taken aback by “work on your knees.” Does your Better Half know you talk to other women like that? Tell the Nannster I said hello right back. Am I going to see her this summer? Also, the phone number I have for you is no longer in service.

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