The Book of My Life

On psychological process, creative expression, knowing myself better and being a better writer.

I was in amongst the old books of our local charity shop yesterday, breathing in the dust and cobwebs, running my hand over engraved frontispieces, weighing the different qualities of paper, admiring hand sown bindings, reading about long departed lives, wondering who had first creased the spine, and when…

Last summer I taught a course on writing autobiography at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. We found it was easy to get caught up in trying to pin down the ‘true facts’ of our lives. In reality, the line between fact and fiction is a very blurred one. In the very act of making memories we select and edit the material of our lives. And when we write down our life story, we necessarily re-edit our already creative memories, to make the narrative work.

I find the metaphor of the writer a helpful one for our lives. It’s not only in viewing the part of our life gone by that we make creative choices, but in every new situation we encounter. We always have a choice as to how we think and act (even if the range of choices available is not necessarily what we would wish). We can realise this, take responsibility for our choices, and thereby feel in control of our life, or, we can see ourselves as a victim of life events over which we have no control. The former gives us strength and health. The latter brings fear and ill health.

So, even when I’m not writing it down, I like to see myself as consciously choosing each new experience of my life, gathering these fragments, and shaping them into a cohesive narrative, into the story of who I am. How exciting and liberating to be creating the ME that I want to be. It’s a work in progress.

This blog was first published on September 6th 2012