Thursday, May 21, 2009

To Memoir or Not to Memoir

So I'm grappling.

The issue is whether or not I will proceed with writing a memoir based on my experiences of losing my father and then becoming a father myself a few months later.

I've written a draft of a proposal. I've written parts of chapters, scenes, notes, ideas, random scribbles.

And I'm currently waiting for a sign telling me to continue with the memoir. Or to resume the novel I was working on when the twins were born. Or to start a new novel that I've been thinking about. Or to polish up the short story collection first, while deciding on whether to work on the memoir or the novel(s).

And so it goes.

The sign, though, has yet to reveal itself. And I know it won't. But I'm still stubbornly waiting. And minimal writing is getting done on any of the above.

All of which leads to this quote from Ander Monson. It's about writing memoir/nonfiction. And it's something I've been reading over and over and nodding my head to. Not "the sign," but again, there are no signs when it comes to this kind of stuff (not for me, anyway)...

"But I still don't want to read what most people have to say about themselves if it's just to tell their story. I want it to be art, meaning that I want it transformed, juxtaposed, collaged--worked on like metal sculpture, each sentenced hammered, gleaming, honed. For me, the sentence is where it's at--the way the story's told--not simply the story behind the language. The act of telling is fine: kudos to you and your confession, your therapy, your bravery in releasing your story to the public. But telling is performing, even if it seems effortless. And writing that story and selling it to a publisher makes it product, packaged and edited and marketed. With years of reflection on that story and how it can be shaped as prose (and how its shape changes from our shaping it, reflecting on it), given audience and agents and editors, rhetoric and workshop and rewriting for maximum emotional punch--given the endless possibilities of the sentence on the page, I expect to see a little fucking craft. I guess I want awareness, a sense that the writer has reckoned with the self, the material, as well as what it means to reveal it, and how secrets are revealed, how stories are told, that it's not just being simply told. In short it must make something of itself."

I'll quote this part again: "...a sense that the writer has reckoned with the self, the material, as well as what it means to reveal it."


katrina said...

I had a similar situation a few months ago. What if you gave yourself a certain amount of allotted time to whatever project feels the "hottest' to you right now and I don't mean in a marketing sense? What if you gave yourself permission to just play with no thoughts to whether or not would want to read it?

May the sign reveal itself.

katrina said...

Oops: with no thoughts to whether or not SOMEONE would want to read it.

I am a negligent typer.

Andrew Roe said...

That sounds like a great idea/approach, Katrina. Thank you. I think I have a little more clarity since I wrote this post. We'll see...