“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”
So said Virginia Woolf, who was born 135 years ago today.
It got me thinking about my own work, the evolution of what became The Latte Years. I wanted it to be a novel, to take everything that had happened and make it not about me, have it be someone else's story. Also, I like making stuff up. In the three years where the only version of The Latte Years that existed was a novel (and lived on my laptop), I had so much fun embellishing the facts. Things became far more dramatic, but also neater, than they had been in real time.
Now, not only do I know in my bones (however reluctantly) that everything to do with The Latte Years - both the events described within it and everything that's happened since - had to happen the way it did, but Virginia Woolf's words above feel more relevant to me now than ever before. It's like a favourite teacher giving me a pat on the shoulder, as if to say, "you had to do this first. Now you can do the other thing."
The writer I used to be, before The Latte Years, used fiction as a place to hide rather than a place to let her imagination run wild. Looking back, memoir was the only way out, the only way that story could be told. Memoir was my rite of passage. I emerged from that year - 2015 - a changed person, and a completely different writer. To become the writer I am now, The Latte Years had to be written. As it is. The truth of my life, my story, my experiences, as I lived them and remembered them, nearly a decade on, alone in a study on the other side of the world from where most of it took place.
So now that I've told the truth about myself - as confronting as that was - I'll be able to write other true things. Hemingway said, in one of my favourite books A Moveable Feast, "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."
That's advice I intend to follow.