Nov 21

How Being a Bad Liar Made Me a Better Writer

WHAT’S PLAYING: Paramore “The Only Exception

I am a bad liar. Very bad. Horribly, comically, painfully bad. I sweat. I stammer. And my eyes dart around like neurotic chipmunks on meth. Forget about the rules of morality my parents tried to instill in me. I’m honest because I have no other choice.

But that kind of honesty comes with a hefty price tag. I don’t just suck at verbal untruths; I can’t even lie by omission. I can’t control my face. While the rest of my family has mastered the whole “stone-faced Indian” thing, I couldn’t hide my feelings to safe my life. Not only is my face an open book, it has pictures, diagrams, even Braille. And the worst part is that I can’t tell when I’m doing it. It’s as if someone else is controlling my expressions and I have absolutely no input.

I think it comes from spending so much time alone.

About ten years ago, my very pregnant sister-in-law was asked to act as matron of honor for her best friend’s wedding. And she, in turn, asked me to go with her to the fitting.

Even as a self-absorbed teenager, I was no fool. I knew what was coming. So, I spent some time practicing my expressions in the mirror. I posed, postured, and perfected my “stone” face.

When the day came and the inevitable question – “Do I look fat in this?” – came with it, I was ready.


My sister-in-law took one look at my face, burst into tears, and then locked herself inside the fitting room. All of her friends took turns trying to coax her out. When they weren’t glaring daggers at me, that is.

All the time I kept saying, “But I practiced!”

Finally, after two hours, we had to call my brother to come and coax his wife out of the dressing room.

I wish I could go back to that day and answer the question my sister-in-law should have asked. The one, in fact, she had been asking all along, but I was too young and too stupid to know it. Truth is, she was lovely. Between the glow of pregnancy and the simple joy that radiated from her in waves, she was luminous. Yes. If I could go back in time, I would ignore the question she had asked and answer the one she’d meant to. (Of course, it’s a moot point now. Ten years and ten kids later, she’s still a size zero. Seriously, her ass looks better than my face.)

I learned a lesson that day that has served me well ever since, and had made me a much better writer.

That was the day I learned to look deeper. To answer only the questions that should be answered and ignore the rest. Readers (especially pregnant ones) don’t really need to know all the details, just the ones that matter. The ones that show more than just what’s on the surface.

What about you? How much detail is enough for you? Not just in writing, but in everything. Are you one of those people who ignore the surface to find what lies beneath? Or would you rather deal with each layer one at a time? How do you fashion your worlds, your lives? When you walk through your neighborhoods, what are the details that jump out at you? Follow you home and haunt your dreams? Is the laughter of the children in the park? Or the scent of your neighbor’s garden? Or is the sight of freshly manicured lawns? What are the details that move you?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2011/11/how-being-a-bad-liar-made-me-a-better-writer/

1 comment

  1. small sized cars

    A very impressive article. Well prepared. Very motivating!! Go off on to facilitate way

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