Friday, December 30, 2016
A Memoir is Not a Diary
I don't know about you, but whenever anyone asks me WHY I am writing the book I am writing, I struggle to answer them.
What makes my story more important than anyone else?
What is so special about it?
I never know how to answer because there are so many answers and they're not all correct.
Perhaps the tougher question is, "What is your book about?"
Well, all of the things. Empathy. Grief. Love. Forgiveness. Never forgiving. Family dynamics. Alcoholism. More grief. A constant compounding of grief. Empathy, again. Empathy always.
I keep an ongoing reading journal. It's the only type of diary I can maintain. I've tried diary writing and journaling so many times in my near 40 years. I fail every time. I always find it so boring, quotidian. But not reading journals. Those are a blast! So this morning, when I came across this section in Why We Write About Ourselves, I took note.
From Why We Write About Ourselves, edited by Meredith Mara, "A memoir is not a diary. I've written six novels in the past fifteen years. I've had an enormous amount of fun couching my life fictionally in those novels, extrapolating from direct experience as fuel for my imaginative fire. I'm relishing my newfound ability to transcend the self-absorption and artlessness of journal writing into a coherent narrative, to shape the raw material of my life without denying any of its fuckedupness or my own culpability and fallibility. And that ability came directly from many years of writing fiction. The fictional "I" gave rise to the nonfictional one and enabled me to write directly about myself, as a character rather than an unmitigated, diaristic first-person voice."
The key here is without denying any of its fuckedupness. No, not an ounce. Put it all in there.
Later, in this same section, she writes "My friend Rosie Schaap, who wrote the brilliant, beautiful memoir Drinking with Men, told me, 'The only person who should look like an asshole in your memoir is you.' I strove to follow that. I hope I didn't fail too badly."
Today I sent my finished memoir manuscript off to be printed for my early readers and my family members. I hope I didn't fail too badly.
So, happy new year. And cheers! Here's to general fuckedupness and assholes.
Happy New Year,