I was originally going to try to tie these quotes together with a pretty bow of words and share something super insightful about writing and revelation and public and private, but I don't have any grand insights right now, or if I do, they are percolating, in the idea stage. There are so many ideas and false starts and even finished pieces waiting for me to figure out where, if anywhere, they go, beyond the confines of my laptop. And maybe I will try to tie everything up tidily, as I feel I should, but that will have to happen another time, if at all. For now, a few things I read this week that resonated with me.
1. xoJane's Jane Pratt, interviewed by Amy Odell at Buzzfeed Shift (which you should bookmark)::
Getting writers to reveal very personal things in stories can be very difficult, and yet XO Jane's always do. Is it worth all the fear and anxiety?2. "We see the world not as it is, but as we believe it to be." Lisa Cron, Wired for Story - I'm amazed at how many parallels there are between what Cron explores as issues for writers regarding their characters, and takeaways for how I look at my own life. As a perpetual memoir reader, it's clear that these rules could be applied to memoir as well, where the characters are often real, but just as often composites. Cron's blog at wiredforstory.com examines these principles further, tapping into everything from why Fifty Shades of Grey works as a story to the basic but profound look at why stories matters to us so vitally as humans: "Neuroscientists believe the reason our already overloaded brain is wired to devote so much precious time and space to letting us to get lost in a story is that without stories, we’d be toast. Stories allow us to simulate intense experiences without actually having to live through them. We get to sit back and vicariously experience someone else suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, the better to learn how to dodge those darts should they ever be aimed at us."
What I find is that the more people do share the things that they feel like they shouldn’t share — whether it’s an image of themselves that they don’t feel is their most flattering — the more positive feedback they get.
3. "Thanks also go to Julia Pastore for shaping this book so expertly and helping me to puck the story I needed to tell from what was originally an emotional tangle." Jessica Dorfman Jones, Klonopin Lunch, a doozy of a memoir that I think all New Yorkers should read - it's outrageous, but also laughs at its (her) own outrageousness. It's titillating and wild but it's done so well that it doesn't come across as "a crash course in Snort, Kvetch, Schtup," though props to whatever publicist wrote that. I look forward to a time when not every memoir about sex is tagged with the Sex and the City label, because Jones, with her neuroses, adventures, dot com turned rock goddess tale, complete with Meow Mix memories and bad boys, is much more real to me, and I would imagine anyone who ever visited Meow Mix, than Carrie Bradshaw and her shoes and wondering could ever be. But that quote from the acknowledgements was another reminder to me that a) editors are extremely important and b) "memoir" does not mean "everything that ever happened to you." It means just as artfully crafted a story arc as fiction, perhaps even more artfully crafted as you have to try to see the world as it is and as you believe it to be (or have been).
4. Mike Daisey, from The Orient Express (Or, the Value of Failure), quoted by Chris Klimek, Washington City Paper
Before we go any further, I wanted to tell you—just this once—that I am an unreliable narrator. I am made of dust and shadows. I am telling you things now, and I will tell you more things. You will never know my secret heart. You will think you hold it in your hand, that you know the depths of me. And you know nothing. You will never know me. And I never wanted you to. That’s not why we’re here. That’s not why we ever came here to this place. And you should know the truth: That there are no reliable narrators.