Every now and then threads from different corners of my experience converge and twist together, forming a vortex of intense meaning. This just happened again to remind me that writing Truth takes many forms, and that life writing can include fiction.
The first thread: discussions in a couple of online groups about the nature of Truth. A general agreement emerged that there are levels and facets of truth. Factual truth and meaning don't always coincide, and for the purposes of memoir, meaning trumps fact.
The second thread: an e-mailed link to a TED video of Isabel Allende's talk, “Tales of Passion.” She leads off with the question, “What is truer than truth?” The answer, according to an old Jewish tale, is the Story. (She has a lot more to say that’s well worth listening to, and she’s funny to boot.)
The third thread: reading William Young's bestselling novel, The Shack. This story rang true to me from the beginning. When I read “The Story behind THE SHACK” at the end of the book, I discovered that the book was pulled directly out of life experience, telling William Young's truth in an innovative way that skyrocketed it to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List where it has remained for ten months and counting.
Young tells how he began with no plan other than to jot down some thoughts as a Christmas gift for his children. Over a period of months of writing during his bus commute, he gradually stumbled onto the idea of transcribing memories of some conversations he'd had with God. Although he began with no sense of grammar, rules, structure or direction, three men who lived the truth of the book as they worked with him helped him give birth to this independently published blockbuster.
This vortex of meaning underscores for me the power of starting without a preconceived notion of where you plan to go, pouring your heart onto paper, then shaping the story that emerges. Not only does it validate the hunger Americans feel for a new look at old beliefs, the success of The Shack should give great courage to those who fear direct disclosure. Sometimes truth is most powerful when it acquires the trappings of the fantastic.
Write now: write a letter to God about something important to you. It might be a love letter to God, or a prayer, or lots of questions about things you need help with. You can share this letter, file it away, or burn it. What you do with it matter far less than the writing itself.