I remember a self-portrait I saw at a friend’s senior art exhibit several years ago. I was struck by how much it truly looked like her. I immediately recognized her eyes and smile, but the bright swirling colors in soft brushstrokes captured her joy and sweetness. The blues and purples made me feel the deep peace she had found in her faith. It was a visual representation of her new life in Christ, and it made me smile. It was her, inside and out.
A few days ago I saw another friend’s creative work that reflected some of his painful experiences. It portrayed some very raw emotions, and though some of it was played for laughs, I winced. I teared up. And I admired him for putting his memories on display in hopes that someone else might learn from it.
It takes courage to put a piece of yourself on the page, the canvas, or the screen. You invite criticism and derision. It’s something I think about on a daily basis when I work on my novel. The characters are made up, but some of the stories and situations reflect experiences I’ve had. I don’t know what my friends and family will think when they read it someday. Will they recognize those bits and pieces?
I’m not sure I could even tell you what parts are me. Someone else reading it might actually be better at figuring that out, simply because they have some distance. I know I’m in there somewhere and that people who know me will recognize me. To be honest, I’d rather they just enjoyed the story. But I also know from every English class I ever took that what gives a story its power is the person telling it. Part of the point of the written word is seeing the world through another’s unique perspective. You can’t separate the author from the work, no matter how much I would like to.
I don’t know if I’ve got the guts for this.