Took a workshop on memoir today with Pat O’Donnell of University of Maine, Farmington, through the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.
Pat was so approachable and used the workshop mainly as a way of giving individualized attention to the questions we have about our own material. I have produced a good number of pages but I remain overwhelmed by the notion of writing about my own life, so it was helpful to get feedback from her and classmates.
I got a positive response to my working title, and made good use of our two freewrite sessions: I wrote a short piece that could serve as an opener to the book, and the bones of a new chapter or essay. But none of that compels me to make this post!
I tell you about this workshop to cheerlead (1) Pat, who was a joy; and (2) YOU, if you are considering personal essay or (gulp) memoir but fear your life just isn’t interesting enough.
This workshop reminded me that I’m not compelled to write about my own crap because I MUST BE KNOWN AND UNDERSTOOD. Precisely the opposite is true.
I’m coming to the page with my memories and troubles and insights and gratitude because writing is how I make meaning. Pat says it better in this article about her memoir Waiting To Begin: “I wanted to understand my life better–why I made the choices I made, why I did things the way I did. I wrote it to better understand my life.”
If I wind up writing something artful about my life, then others might get a chance to read it. In the meantime, I write the truth because somehow living it keeps me always looking ahead, and, often, wincing while I (quickly) glance back. It would be nice to be in the middle of events I understand. It would be nice to be the author of my own story.
I was also reminded that we–you, me, everybody–can’t help but be interesting. There was a huge range of stories in that classroom of 12 people, and only two of us had experienced events that felt really unusual. But I was riveted by every story crumb tossed my way. The individual is the universal–the forever-lesson of writing.
Here’s an article I found at Literary Hub that speaks to the need to share stories that aren’t so extraordinary. Enjoy. Then get yourself to the page!