All Of Life

I never studied fiction writing in school, but I feel as if I’ve been a student of the art form my entire life. If I pay attention there are lessons everywhere, not merely in the books I read or from the writers I interview. For instance, I was watching The French Lieutenant’s Woman the other night. I’d never seen this film and I was quite enjoying it, particularly Meryl Streep’s performance(s). I know I’m not alone when I say I could watch her recite a laundry list, but there is something for me as a writer that I find inspiring about what Streep brings to a role, and it wasn’t until the other night that I understood what.

When Streep is at her best, which is often, there always seems to be more than one emotion present at one time. Beneath her happiness there is sadness; within her anger there is humor. It’s like drinking great wine, tasting pepper and liquorice and raspberry simultaneously. And just as it is delicious to drink this kind of wine, it is delicious for me to watch an actor like Streep because you are allowed a short banquet of feeling through her.

Jimi Hendrix said he wanted to play the guitar the way Little Richard sang. I would like to write novels the way Meryl Streep acts. If Streep can find so much within a moment, I can find that much within a scene. Or I can try. All of life exists all at once, and while I can’t possibly put it all in once sentence, I can at least insinuate it. If I’m lucky, I’ll point the reader toward the window through which all of life is visible. Whether the reader looks or not is up to them, but I consider it my job to find that window, and the great wines, and great singers, and great actors of the world remind me it’s there if I look long enough.

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