Last weekend, Liz Gilbert, world renowned for having written Eat, Pray, Love wrote a wonderful question of the day on her Facebook page which read as follows: “What's the emotional difference between writing a confessional memoir and writing a work of pure fiction? Liz said that there is a great self-consciousness to writing a memoir: You must be extremely careful about what you say not only about yourself, but also about other people.
She went on to express that with a novel, the writer is lulled into this sense of safety and expansion and utter liberty (thinking, "This has absolutely nothing to do with me, so I can go in any direction I please!") and thus might very well accidentally reveal A LOT about herself.
As a writer, or artist, I believe that you simply cannot live without standing in these questions and addressing them in a deeply COMMITTED way. (Tipping my hat to Liz)
I have thought about these questions for years. And I have always known that those around me have found it very difficult (challenging, at times), to stand beside me, knowing that I have a very strong need to express myself in a fiercely honest way.
I reside on the side of memoir. I have often been told to write a novel, but even if I were to do so, I know it would be painfully obvious which characters were whom even with the freedom a novel would afford me.
In writing my blog, I have taken three blogs down almost immediately after posting them. I showed the blogs to the those I had written about in order to ask their permission to post and each time I was given the permission, I posted.
The first time, nearly destroyed a friendship. The second, nearly destroyed a relationship which had already been nearly destroyed. The other time, along with the advice of good counsel, I felt it was wise to take the blog down and begin it again when I was truly ready to write what needed to come through.
There was another occasion when I wrote a blog which I showed to the person I had written about and when “no” was the answer, I never posted it. That post was entitled, “Private Lives.” It was a very important piece of writing to me and out of deep respect, it remained, concealed. Which inherently, is not my nature.
None of the aforementioned posts are part of my eBook. I watched myself make that choice very deliberately even as it caused me to silence my own self.
My intent in posting my blogs is NEVER to cause harm to anyone. My intent is always to cross a threshold and get to the other side of something I may be struggling with and hopefully find a new way to listen, learn, engage, behave, and perhaps start again.
Sometimes my hope is to find a way to begin a dialogue. To reach another person.
My nature is to reveal. To unveil truths which may be very difficult to speak, and perhaps even more difficult to hear, but without any intent to harm. Purely for the sake of healing and growing.
But we each do this at different paces which is probably why my blog does not have a ton of readers, and perhaps why my eBook is not selling.
To know me is the opposite of escapism. My dearest friend told me once that I scare people because I am so honest and subsequently, raise the bar when I engage with them. She said that most people just want to run the other way. That may be so, but I don’t know how to do that, nor would I want to.
I know that I came here to clear out the muck and to heal no matter how deep an injury lay dormant inside. I know that I came here to do that. And part of the only way I know how to do that is to tell, write and speak the truth and to keep opening towards pain, not away, so that forgiveness is real and palpable. And so that I can discover that what lies beneath what was once dormant, is more love, not pain.
A writer friend recently told me that he heard (on a sitcom) that we shouldn’t be writing about what we know, but that we should be writing about what we are afraid people may find out.
I agree with that.
Whether through memoir or novel. To me, it is all the same. To have the courage to stand in your sovereignty and claim it all as a part of who you are. Once you can do that, the rest is easy. Without shame or fear of becoming that which you deplore or that which has harmed you. Because we all have it within us to be everything.
To be warriors. To be dragons.
Rilke said it beautifully: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
And I would add,
Our truth, our trust and our forgiveness.
Thank you, Liz. Godspeed, everyone. (And check out The Signature Of All Things by the incomparable Elizabeth Gilbert- already selected one of the 10 best books of 2013!)