From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Stranger than Fiction

The thing about growing up, you realize how many crazy things you think happen mostly just in stories have actually happened very close to home. Or maybe other people are less oblivious than I am? It's happened more and more often since I graduated from college, and the last few months have been biggies.

It's...some of it's stuff you can't really talk about except with the people involved. Partly just because its private, but also because anybody outside wouldn't nearly understand why it's so big of a deal. Sometimes they would, but sometimes it's just little things that put a crack in the way you've been seeing the world up till now, like hearing a story about how your look-up-placid-in-the-dictionary grandpa beat up and nearly broke the back of the vicious dog who jumped into the car with his daughters. Even just watching your siblings go through emotional stuff you never thought they would have to go through is like an Oxford English Dictionary size lesson in new feelings. Stuff like that.

Then sometimes it really is big deal stuff happening to your family or friends and you just think, how is this happening in real life? I am so used to giving people the benefit of the doubt, trusting that they mean well, and then every once in a while something happens that makes you think how could a human being do this to someone? And not just in the what's on the news sense, but like, to your brother sense. On the bright side happy things happen too, and all of it is a learning experience.

Then there are times when the situation is just so ridiculously chaotic or so unbelievably coincidental or weird that it does seem something straight out of fiction. There is a special brand of this kind of experience that comes when you are raising 8 kids, and I think part of the reason that I feel this way about getting older is that I am privy to more and more of these stories, increasingly in depth conversations with my mom about the past covering all these types of stranger than fiction moments, from the weird to the hurt. It is a little bit paradigm shattering, but the more it happens, and the further I get from when it first started happening, the more I realize how much I've learned because of it and how different of a person I was and would be without it.

I do warn people that telling me stories is dangerous and comes with a I'm-a-novelist caveat, but even if we don't use experiences like this directly in our fiction, I think our writing absolutely is informed by what we learn. To me writing is all about working through those emotional lessons and trying to figure them out and seeing if anybody out there feels the same way you do. Because there are a lot of them out there who also think that they're alone. Life really is stranger than fiction, but I think fiction is what helps us make sense of it all with a friend by our side.

Do you feel the same way? What stranger than fiction things have happened in your life that you're open to sharing with us?

Sarah Allen


  1. Sarah, you are one deep girl.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  2. I love this quote from writer and poet May Sarton, "My own belief is that one regards oneself, if one is a serious writer, as an instrument for experiencing life-- all of it--flows through this instrument and is distilled through it into works of art... And at some point I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader...If we are to understand the human condition, and if we are to accept ourselves in all the complexity... we have to know all we can about each other, and we have to be willing to go naked."

  3. Great concept for S! My stranger than fiction moment was a little eerie. We were living in Prague for a year and at some point decided we wanted to see the remains of a Roman villa, which is in the central area of the city. After we started out, I had an odd feeling I knew where it was and led my husband right to it, although I had never been there, had not seen a map and knew nothing much about it. Food for reincarnation?

  4. Ah the joy of growing up! The older you are, the less you know, because you realize the world is so vast and there are so many different perspectives.


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