As I celebrate another year in The Munich Girl’s life, and my own, I’m pondering the power of expression in the world, the double-edged qualities of speech, the timeless gifts of questions and listening, and the potential of art to convey the wholeness of our experience.
I’m revisiting the path along which the novel led me, hoping to mine some reflective memoir. As I do, I’m inspired by words like the following ones from writers with soul-sized perspectives.
“Writing about one’s own or another’s life poses serious challenges. A writer trying to represent his life in a book engages himself in ongoing negotiations about what information to include and what to withhold, what he believes is true and what he wants readers to think is true,” says Helena Hjalmarsson.
“The need for synthesis – coherence, connections between past and present – is a constant struggle … ” Hjalmarsson notes. “Often, the sense of life as a logical, purposeful unfolding becomes more important to the autobiographer than objective truth. Also vital to writers of autobiographies is the drive to make their work relevant and accessible to their readership – as well as a desire for connection, a social and spiritual need to ‘reincarnate,’ to have their hard-won perspective exist outside themselves.”
Jhumpa Lahiri writes, “It was not in my nature to be an assertive person. I was used to looking to others for guidance, for influence, sometimes for the most basic cues of life.
“And yet writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself. Even among the most reluctant and doubtful of writers, this willfulness must emerge. Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, ‘Listen to me.’ ” Lahiri cuts right to the core, in this.
Elizabeth Sims recently shared timely words about this process in a blog post called “A Real Writer’s Duty”:
“These days when extraordinary, historic events occur, everybody becomes a writer. Social media enables all of us to spew impassioned opinions—joy, outrage, elation, despair—if we want to. And so many do. And free speech is great.
“But a real writer of either fiction or nonfiction takes a much longer and deeper view of human affairs and human nature than most people.” (How I love this. Indeed, I live for it.)
“A real writer is more curious than defensive,” she continues. “A real writer explores. A real writer is ready to be surprised. A real writer never panics. A real writer knows the world is in the work.”
Find Elizabeth’s Zestful Writing Blog here: