“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” –Anais Nin

There are many different kinds of friendships one makes in life, not the least of which is the kind made with the authors of our favorite books, though we may never meet them or exchange a word with them.  As Wentworth Dillon, the Earl of Roscommon said, “Choose an author as you choose a friend.”  One might equally well reverse the equation and say, “Choose a friend as you choose an author.”  Then, there’s the more remote, hail-fellow-well-met kind of human friendship and goodwill which Sam Walter Foss had in mind when he said “Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”  And there’s a connection between these two ideas, if you’ll grant me the time to expound upon it.

Perhaps, however, the most significant idea which I want to put before you today is that from Anaïs Nin’s Diary, in which she says (as I quoted in the title of my post), “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”  Each friend we meet is thus an opportunity to extend ourselves further into the human equation (if I may use so dry and mathematical a figure for so “moist” and fulsome a reality).  Whether we are meeting a friend of the mind through a book or a friend of the heart in a café or private home, or whether our friend is the result of some combination of an intellectual and emotional friendship, we are witnessing and participating in the birth of a new world, and this new world causes us to grow and develop human characteristics that were perhaps formerly shut off from us, as we had never encountered the need or the use for them in ourselves or others.

In essence, we become a new person in relation to our new friend.  A new human quadrant or area, the area of the Venn diagram formed by the overlapping of the two circles (us and our friend) now exists in the world, and it is, one hopes, for the enriching of the overall human being, that being spoken of in the quote which above mentions being “a friend to man,” in the general category of humankind.  For, as the interior growth we experience causes us to be able to understand other people better, so it is that “tout comprendre, tout pardonner,” as the French say, or “to understand all is to forgive all.”  Though possibly forgiving “all” is a bit much to imagine, the sentence is generous and tolerant and conveys quite adequately the sense of latitude it’s meant to.  And it is through our understanding of our own dilemmas that we come to understand those of our fellows and vice versa.  That is, often in looking for the solution to a personal conundrum, we can find illumination in the situation of a friend and how he or she has handled something, just as surely as if we had received advice from them given from the heart.

Those of you, both friends and acquaintances, who have been following my column for some time and have been wondering just what this possibly preachy or in some other manner showy little disquisition on another aspect of friendship has to do with creative writing will now get your answer:  for it is one of the main ways we create characters, through the employment of our pictures of ourselves and others, that shows that we have a true connection with the human equation, as I previously called it, always assuming that we have created well and truly.  That is that we imagine:  we imagine beings, sometimes partially like ourselves, sometimes partially like our friends, to inhabit our worlds.  Even our villains must be drawn from this pool in order not to be just stock “flat” figures, but to have body and life.  We must be able to imagine their internal struggles too, just as we do those of the more positive characters.  So now, we have come full circle in our examination of this view of friendship, back to the point where I started, selecting books as we do friends:  for even our favorite authors supply us with models we can use for our characters, to be followed in a rough way, not slavishly, an idea I’m sure you will find a truism entirely, since so many famous writers have commented upon the influences on and sources of their works.  Make sure that you too select both your friends and your favorite writers by a revised sort of Golden Rule:  as you would want them to select you:  because they sincerely admire/respect/want to imitate well your being with their own.  My preachment is over, and for those of you who may be pondering what brought it on this time, it is the effect of reading about a serious quarrel between two fiction writers in a letter written by another (memoir) writer, and wondering how they all came to be friends in the first place.  And no, I won’t tell who it is, chances are you’ve not heard of them, and I’m feeling foolish now that I have!  But there may be a day when I have to create some rather silly villains, and I’m saving up a non-specific, very generalized, and non-libelous set of characters, and you can guess whom they’re based upon.


Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days....

8 responses to ““Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” –Anais Nin

  1. Very good post. I have been alluding to a similar notion in my recent posts. Your French quote indicates that even if you do not agree with another person or their perspective, you find a measure of compromise in understanding why they are the way they are, and how they came to form that perspective.

    As an offshoot from the above point, it is true that the characters we use in our writings are likely an extension of ourselves in one particular direction. Defining them by one of your known traits helps you improve their characterisation.


    • I’m always appreciative of how much deep thought you put into these issues of plot, characterization, setting, and etc. I think if asked to theorize about it, I can do it, but when I’m actually composing I tend to do things by impulse or intuition, and think my way through it later. I guess it’s whatever works for you, right?


  2. I’ve always loved that Nin quote. And your post, a beautifully rounded little essay, extends it so well. Makes me wonder about friends, especially new ones, versus family who’ve known us all our lives. Have they really? Well, literally, yes. But do they know us or we them any better than a friend. In some sense, the weight of history may work against seeing someone clearly or even fairly.


    • Yes, that’s a good point about family–there’s a “possession” motive in their relationship with us, they have a natural but possibly delusive feeling that they possess our history as much as we do, and that gives them a vested interest in defending what they perceive as a mutual truth against all comers, when it may not be our individual truth at all. I find out some of the most interesting things about my brother when he and I talk not as siblings but as friends getting better acquainted with each others’ histories!


  3. Beautiful post. Personal growth and knowledge through friendship has become so much more meaningful as I “grow up”. There are some who are unable to recognize it as it happens, or are too self centered in their own reality to even acknowledge it. Your post not only makes me ponder further, but will remind us all to be more open to what beauty friendship brings.


    • Thank you, Kathy. I feel I have been personally blessed with very good friends both in my daily life and across the Internet, and to them I credit my appreciation of friendship–one learns by observing, often.


  4. Pingback: Encountering New Worlds via Old Friends | Spread

  5. Pingback: “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” –Anais Nin – Site Title

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