Last night, after years of telling and retelling a certain story to friends, I decided that I would make a record of the experience involved. This was a piece that had to be written in the most relaxed possible state, to some sultry jazz. It was a lot of fun to write and I didn’t come up for air for about four hours.
As I wrote a number of artistic questions posed themselves. What exactly is memoir. Why do so many people want to write it? How intimate and revealing must it be to be authentic? Where are the lines between fact and embellishment– few of us can remember all of the details of our lives exactly as things took place, and so, our imaginative capabilities come into play.
It’s wrong to sensationalize and misrepresent something, of course. But, the virtue of the best memoir is that it tells universal truths through the personal voice. The story one is telling needs to have its own power, its own heft and significance, not just for the writer, but to reach the reader.
These last few days I’ve been tired and pushing myself to write at the same level as when I was caught up on rest. I was frustrated enough by my dead ends to revise or pull the posts I thought were just taking up bits.
Last night I think I hit my groove again and for once, my piece was chiefly dialogue as opposed to so much description. Two characters talk together in the first part of the piece and two characters become involved in the second half. Naturally I don’t remember things verbatim, but at least I can approximate what was said and give it color.
Now, about being self-revealing. You can’t get much more frank than writing about an early sexual experience in the first person. In my pieces posted here, A Writer’s Quest for Life Experience, or whatever I call it, and Invasion of the Sea-Men, I am open for the sake of telling what I hope are amusing and compelling stories. The same goes for the current piece, which goes quite a bit further. I denote one of the aforementioned posts as “racey”– this one is “steamy” but I would say, not obnoxiously so, not pornographic.
I conjecture that at 61 I am nearing the zenith of my anecdotal abilities. I also have perspective on myself regarding having lived by the code of “carpe diem” for many years. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve written ad nauseam about heartache, and not so much about joy and connection. I decided to distill the most memorable experiences and collect them and a number of them have to do with giving myself permission to live.
I may or may not post the juicy anecdote here. Someone has already left a coolish comment that I am obsessed with sex. Show me someone who isn’t and I’ll show you a corpse.
Seriously, I wouldn’t have missed a single exploit, for what it gave me, or what it taught me about me. I seem to be able to tell a good story, and so I’m going to keep doing it. It lifts my spirits.
When I was in the nursing home with my broken leg a few years ago, I had a wonderful roommate who recounted her entire life in her sleep. She had a deep contralto voice that carried past the white noise I tried to create with a fan next to my bed. I turned it off to this:
“That was just grand, my darling. Now all we need is a towel, a wet washcloth, and a bottle of champagne.”
How wonderful! Here was an eighty-year old woman, reliving the best moments of her life– someone who will never walk again and who has to be lifted in and out of bed. She has memories of this caliber accessible to her. Of course, she could have been talking about a picnic, but I doubt it.
I am brave enough to offer my new piece to you via e-mail: email@example.com . One day I hope it will accompany others in a volume of good writing by yours truly that uplifts and entertains others, that is on the lighter side…
I accidentally deleted a challenge from yesterday: to write about something you didn’t think you could do or were afraid to do, and overcame.
Today’s challenge: to open up a blank word processing window on your blog or in Word, and write one detailed page about the moment in time you are living, describing where you are, what you see, employing the other senses if you like. The immediacy of the moment forces us to write with particularity, to observe and to articulate– let’s not censor ourselves as we go or self-edit as we write; let’s just write…..