Monday, January 28, 2013

Quotes on Writing / Living Memoir

Some of these speak so closely to me right now as I struggle through a first first first draft; I'm all lost one day and found the next, losing faith about form only to say screw it and find faith again. Then I lose the narrative thread because the fog of words conceals them -- when I cut out superfluous, rambly, preachy sentences and rely on the images and description, the fog lifts and I see the road again. Know your subject. Do research. Watch that fog turn into a plasma cutting beam 'o' precision, power, and grace. Find the story in everything -- everything. (below quotes from this piece here)

"Memoir is the only second chance you ever get at life. It is a willful turning back of the clock, a logical impossibility, and yet you do it, because your mind exists outside of time. If your memoir is really good, really honest, really from the roots of your heart, you yourself will not even know what is invention/reinvention and what is “really real” because the act of remembering imaginatively blurs those distinctions for you, forever." -- Lauren Slater

"Right now in American writing there is no genre as exciting as memoir — the writer can do anything, as long as it works. It’s like the 1920s up in this joint. So, I’d say, experiment with how you tell the story. In the best memoir it’s not the what, it’s how the writer tells the what — meaning and effect through form." -- Anthony Swofford

"Also: Do research. Bring in other eyes, other voices. Interview other people who saw what you saw, or who have some perspective on your story, and listen closely to how they tell their version of things. This deepens your account. Stories based on facts are more interesting and truthful and beautiful when placed within a prism of facts. Be a student of your subject. If you’re writing about an experience in a sober house, learn the history of rehab, the history of the specific sober house in which you lived, the chemical composition of benzodiazepine, etc. Everything has a history. Your personal story always intersects with larger subjects and may benefit by weaving them together, even if only by a fine thread. You may choose not to include research material in your story, but it should be at your fingertips." -- Avi Steinberg

"Accept the limitations and boredom of your life as the challenge of writing. Accept your profound lameness as the wages of your craft. The problem is never that your life isn’t interesting enough, it’s that you aren’t looking (or writing) hard enough. Don’t lie. Not to your readers. And not to yourself. Be a skeptic of your own recollections. Ask your family and friends how they remember things." -- Ta-Nehisi Coates

"The most important advice I could give to aspiring memoir writers is that it’s pretty much all hopeless. There is very little chance that you will get your memoir published by a mainstream publisher (or, for that matter, your novel). Also, if you do get published, the process will make you way more mental than you already are.... Just do it. No one cares if you write or not, so you have to." -- Anne Lamott


Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Before I write a memoir, I'll need to do something worth memoiring about. That, it seems to me, is the hardest part.

Benjamin Vogt said...

You have several memoirs in you. We all do. Trust me.

Richard Gilbert said...

Thanks—what a great compilation of quotes about memoir!