It's Personal (Memoir, that is)
Hello out there! Does anyone read this? I've been absent for a variety of reasons: house under evacuation order, working on fire support for the past three weeks...
Once I let a co-worker read an essay I had written. "It's so..personal," he said. Well...that is what memoir is supposed to be. Isn't it? I've always written this way. If you don't put yourself in the fabric, it becomes a dry recounting of facts. We've all read books like these. Of course, it is a fine line to balance. We've all read books where the author overshares. Sometimes the scale is tipped dangerously toward pity party, table of one.
I got a comment on my personal blog that hurt my feelers. The commentor, someone I have never met and who has never commented before, made some assumptions about me that really bothered me. (If curious, go to the blog, link on main page) I am currently writing another memoir (The Men I Left Behind) and have a memoir sitting with my agent. If a small comment like this bugged me so much, should I keep on the memoir path? Maybe I should stick to novels, I mused. Safer. Growing a thicker skin isn't an option at this point.
Or, I thought, I could take all vulnerability out of the blog and the books. Just the facts, ma'am! After all, a lot of people didn't like Wild because they felt Cheryl Strayed whined a lot. I actually liked the book because she did, although I am looking forward to one in the same genre by a strong woman who was prepared, though would this sell? Probably not. Then I thought about all the Pacific Crest Trail blogs I read. The ones I look forward to are the ones where the authors admit their weaknesses, their meltdowns, but also their triumphs. The ones I skim through are the ones that go like this: I got up. I pooped in the woods. I saw three friends (list of friends). I had lunch. I hiked some more. If I invest my time in memoir, I want to know that person. A piece of them, anyway.
I think some people read blogs or memoir and think they do know that person. That's where it becomes dangerous. You don't. For every sentence I write, I leave a lot more out. So what's the point? The point is a slice of honesty, in hopes someone else can relate. Has someone else lost a friend? Worried about getting older? Left a good man behind? I write memoir to realize I am not alone.