In nonfiction—especially creative nonfiction works and memoir—it’s common for writers to tackle material that’s personal and speaks to real-life emotional struggles. And, quite naturally, writing about real lives and real people brings consequences that have to be carefully considered, if not from a legal perspective, then at least from a long-term relationship perspective. (This writer has been open about the challenges and fallout.)
Fiction writing, while not always associated with affecting one’s real-life relationships, can indeed have that power, too—and in a positive way. Novelists often revisit certain types of relationships or characters in their work again and again, as a form of therapy, to work through personal challenges.
In his recent essay for Glimmer Train, Matthew Lansburgh (@senorlansburgh) discusses this phenomenon—and the power of empathy:
What I find interesting is that, over time, as I began to deepen the character on the page, to find more nuance and humanity in my fictional mother, my perception of my actual mother began to shift too. The shift wasn’t seismic. I didn’t suddenly start sitting on her lap while she knitted me mittens and caps, but I did notice moments in our interactions in which the writer part of my consciousness helped me to filter challenging moments in real life.
Also this month in the Glimmer Train bulletin: