Thursday, June 24, 2010
When I began memoir writing four years ago, I had one thing holding me back: how do we write about those we know and/or love, without hurting them? Even if what we write is kind and true? Is it fair? Is it our story to tell? All the places where our lives overlap, how much is ours?
Anne Lamott says she writes several concentric circles away from the core of her life - she does not write about the most intimate and personal details. One may argue that after reading her writing you can't believe it gets several shades more nitty gritty than that, but apparently it does.
Other writers have argued that the more personal, the more universal (and I agree), and that the truth is the important thing - freeing it. The thing is, what's personal to me affects more than just me - even my thoughts are not solely mine, and the truth? Whose truth?
A big reason I decided to pull Unstrung was that while I felt it would help a lot of people, I felt it would hurt at least two, and as Hope Edelman says, "Sometimes the professional gain is not worth the personal cost."
I just finished reading one of the books on my summer reading list: The Journal Keeper. To me, it is one of the best examples of a deeply personal story, that keeps it about the author. While there are things I'm sure her husband would rather not be in print for all eternity, she maintains his dignity at all times - when they have problems, it's her perception, reaction, evolution that is at the crux of the writing.
As a writer this book helped answer a big question that has been holding me back for four years, and as a woman this book helped answer about a million other things that float through my brain at any given time. For a deep, satisfying, provocative, pleasant, want-to-read-all-over-again book, this is it.