My month of blog swaps has now come to an end – many thanks to my wonderful contributors Andrea, Lindsey, Tricia and Will for participating. I thought I'd round things off by giving you my own view on Reflections of Reality and why I chose it as my website title in the first place.
Every piece of writing – whether a book, a blog post, a newspaper article or a shopping list – is in some way a reflection of reality. The act of writing, in effect, is the act of holding up a mirror to the world around us. Yet it is in the nature of a mirror to distort the truth. Even the smoothest and most finely crafted mirror contains minute flaws: a hairline scratch here, an almost imperceptible ripple there. And even if that were not the case, the very definition of reflection is one in which right is left and left is right. A mirror shows reality – often with great clarity – yet it can never be reality.
In the same way, even the most 'factual' piece of writing can never be a fully accurate representation of the real world. We all see things reflected in our own individual 'mirrors': the beliefs and experiences and preconceptions that make us who we are. Like the people in Plato's Cave, we are looking at shadows rather than reality. And as a result, our writing says as much about us as it does about the world.
Not only that, of course, but not all writing is intended to be an exact reflection of reality. Sometimes we deliberately hold up distorted mirrors to our surroundings, those that stretch and compress and bend things into new angles. All fiction does this, to a certain extent, and perhaps fantasy most of all. The 'mirror' of fantasy is curved and pitted and full of ripples, and the image it returns to us can be something very far from what we know as reality.
Yet as much as a mirror can misrepresent and alter, it can also reveal. Who hasn't glanced into a reflection at some point in their lives and momentarily seen the world in a whole new way – whether it's the surprise of a fleeting glimpse in a shop window, the familiar made unfamiliar in a fairground hall of mirrors, or the sense of eternity that comes from seeing a lake reflect the sky? And then, of course, mirrors and their kin (reflections, shadows, photographs, portraits) are the only means we have of seeing our own faces. Mirrors reveal us to ourselves – and so does writing.
Here, I think, we have reached the heart of what reflections of reality means to me. Every piece of writing, every painting, every poem, every song is an interpretation of the world from a specific artist's perspective. And however outlandish or alien they may be, each one holds a kernel of truth about the world. The more we read, the more we look at art and listen to music and watch films and plays, the more we learn – not only about the reality we inhabit, but also about the people who share it with us.
Perhaps this is our responsibility as writers. We can't help but say something about reality when we write; every time we set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard we are creating a mirror, even if we don't realise it. Yet although we don't have any choice there, we do have a choice over what kind of mirror we create: what view of the world we are going to present. And, in fact, the quirky curved mirrors of fantasy are particularly good at this. By stripping away the everyday details that surround us and replacing them with new and unfamiliar settings, they are able to reveal the fundamental truths that lie at the very core of what we call 'reality'.
So there you have it. The way I see it, every good book is a reflection of reality, revealing the world to us in new ways, holding up a mirror both strange and true. That's what I hope to achieve in my writing – and that's how my website got its name.