I don't want anyone out there to think I'm the only writer in my family.
My grandmother was a wiz with words, regularly stomping on us all in Scrabble competitions, and she wrote about our family history and genealogy.
My mom writes professional emails so lengthy and comprehensive, I'm sure if you were to print out a single day's correspondence with her, you could bind it and use it as a doorstop or a ship's anchor.
And my little brother, Curtis, once wrote a story while he was in high school that made our whole family fall over laughing (as it was intended to; we weren't mocking him or anything), and it included an adventure with a kite or something... wish I could remember more.
Then there's my dad. He writes frequently and always from the heart. He signs all of his text messages to me. LD. Love, Dad. So that I'll know they're from him. He shoots off emails for various reasons, most sentimental. I've never needed to wonder whether my dad loved me or was thinking about me. And for that I'm grateful. Even when the things that make him think of me are as... questionable and goofy as the one which triggered the following message from him today.
Things to remember as you read...
My mind might be breaking. I'm pretty sure I heard it crack yesterday. The office was silent except for the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. I paused. I considered all the writing I'd done the days before and all the writing I had yet to do. And my mind broke. The sound was like paper being pulled from a spiral-bound notebook, ripping the edge into a messy fray, or the creaking split of a log after a spot-on hit with a freshly-sharpened maul. (Shoutout to Ben Lear for the analogy assist!) Seriously, I heard it echo from the center of my brain.
Why? Because I'm writing a lot. More than ever before, in fact. Like any other exercise, it feels impossible and unnecessary before I sit down at the keys and refreshing and relieving when I finish and get up to walk away again. It might be hard to believe, though, since my blog seems comparatively quiet. Sorry about that. I only have so much writing mojo to wring from my own imagination, mind, word bank, fingers. Recently, I haven't been letting it out here, but I thought you might like to know what it is I have been writing...
This is the biggest piece of the last submission of my third semester at Lesley University. Like a Craft Annotation on steroids, it's twelve pages of analysis on a single element of craft. After a lot of deep reading and re-reading I finally came up with my thesis:
The first-person memoir seeks to accomplish many things. If it is successful, the narrator acts as a guide on safari, a conduit of culture, an ambassador to a new society, and a foreign correspondent. Her story is both captivating and relatable, a feat accomplished by pushing herself one step further than pure story-telling. The author acknowledges that she is driving the getaway car. She purposely breaks through the boundary of the page and brings the reader along for the ride through the occasional, precise, and sometimes surprising use of the second-person point of view.
Then I pulled quotes from some of my favorite books, both those assigned during my time at Lesley and ones I have read on my own time this year, as well as a past favorite. My sources (all excellent reads that I highly recommend):
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg
Through Painted Deserts by Don Miller
As is usually the case in essay writing, once I have chosen and transcribed the appropriate quotes from these master writers onto the page, I am inspired to nurture my own writing around them, like a gardener gently prodding her own vines up and around a sturdy, reliable trellis. It took several hours, but I came away with a solid essay on an element of craft which I intend to use in my own writing for years to come.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)
For years I've heard about this writing event. Every November. Writing friends remind me about it, assuming that I would jump at the chance to be forced into a mandatory word count to churn out a work of fiction. Finally, those friends were right. I've spent the last year and a half immersed in non-fiction. I eat, drink, breathe, and sleep memoir. And I can't deny that, after a while, writing about myself and my own life gets old. Boring. Stale. Predictable. I know me better than anyone, and I constantly find myself looking back over my own self-centered blog entries and saying, Why on earth would anyone else care about this? I sound like a pompous ass.
It turns out that the cure for any tried and true non-fiction writing pompous ass is to pry her away from the mirror and force her to make up stories about other people. Talk about an exercise in humility.