One of my favorite opening lines goes like this, “All that I write was once real life.”
It’s from Max Blecher’s last novel, The Shinning Burrow.
How do you turn real life into art? Into stories? How do you write about all the things you’d never have the courage to say out loud?
When I first started writing I wasn’t much of a reader. I thought writing to be easy, but I quickly found out the truth. And I knew that all that I needed in order to become the writer I wanted to be could be found in other books.
And I read, and read, and read…
And found stories that showed me a life I almost had, a life I had lost and would never again find, a life I wished I had but would never be able to have. And I was a million different people, and I could see that real life, that the world outside my windows, was more than what I was or what I had or what I could dream up.
This is what art is all about: real life.
Personal experience. The past slowly helping us build a better future, taking us on different paths in the journey we call life.
It takes a lot of courage to write about all the things you’d much rather forget. Yes, it might come easy when you’re writing for yourself, when all you think are doing is a way of escaping from a world you don’t understand.
But what happens when you know others will read what you write? How do you preserve that courage?
The way I see it, the ability to write about personal experiences is what most people would call “secret ingredient.” The x-factor, the special element.
Sadly, I can’t answer that question. You might be born with this courage, or you might have to drink a gallon a wine. You might have to lose the one thing you thought you could never live without. You might have to end up all alone, not knowing what this world is all about.
But the thing is, every story worth reading is simply real life becoming something else. Something much, much more than just life, than just a moment we either acknowledge, enjoy, or discard. Real life becomes art, becomes an universe that’s so close to ours we could touch.
And, yet, we never do…
And, yet, these two worlds never do touch. Incredibly close, eerily similar, and yet nothing will ever make them become one.
All the secrets we have locked away, all the dreams we have stored up in our hearts, all the memories that are slowly fading away in drawers around the house… that’s what art is all about.
Most people, whether they like to admit it or not, have this “Carpe Diem” sort of thing going on. They want to life the moment, they want to enjoy life. They do not want to think about consequences, about time ticking away from them. They simply want to live.
And in that madness they lose a lot of those moments. They forget.
Other people write about those moments, hoping they’ll last forever, hoping they’ll reach people in ways they can only imagine.