As I put myself through the exercise of developing a Memoir, I have found a few books and a system for progressing through that endeavor. One of the books, entitled handling the truth by Beth Kephart, has created a set of assignments for writers to follow through on, as a means for creating a structure by which they can fall back on during times of doubt, writers block, fatigue, etc.
I thought it may be beneficial to post some of those exercises here. The first of which I encountered last night. Without Further Ado:
What Do I Expect of Those I Read? What Do I Expect of What I Write?
For as long as I can remember, books have been on equal ground to near anything else that could lift me off my feet. Not always driven to selecting my next book from the same list of qualifications, I believe the breadth of what I’ve read has led me to a common purpose in what moves me about writing: that each man, or woman, laboring behind the pages had a secret they so desperately had to share. Any inexpediency to so express this desperation could lead only to total failure and estrangement from one’s purpose in life.
I often wonder what the lesson of the parables of the lives of Thoreau, Hemingway, Salinger amounted to; of the thesis of the meaning behind the clarity divulged by Hawthorne, Tolkien, and Lewis. I’ve obsessed over the fledgling thoughts of J.D. Vance, Paul Kalinithi, Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac as they set out on their road to create their life’s works and passions. I felt, and still feel, as though the greatest writers in history, whether in a single work or over the course of their lives, had an individual statement inscribed on their souls. Something so unique, fragile, and uncommon that it could only be that statement on their soul that screamed for their work to come pouring out of them. No matter the intention of the author, I look for the statement behind the work – the generation defining questions. The intensely unique vehicles they take to arrive at their solutions. The characters they developed, captured or conjured as a means to deliver their age-defining work. All of these things matter. Their use, but not overly so, of imagery. The willingness they have to stop at the cusp of the flowery language – without descending back into beleaguerie. As for those of whom I am currently discovering, or will soon delve, I expect to understand their voice and their mission. I then expect to leave their work with questions that make me search my soul for how I might volley. I expect the destination to be a place where my heart can accept the imperfections of our fallen world.
Of myself I expect to deliver myself, as completely as I can, to those who might never come within earshot of my spoken voice. I expect to consistently produce the weights with which I struggle. To slam them down on the page, wriggling and insubordinate. To grapple with those issues, demons and insecurities, exposed and unadulterated. To expose momentary triumphs and setbacks. To communicate how what I learned in early stages set the tenor for my approach to embracing risks and opportunities. I expect to speak honestly of myself and those with whom the work encounters. I expect to have to try this more than once. I expect to toil, and loathe, and love and triumph. I expect to use every word, but not one more than is necessary, to delivery my voice, my message, my thesis. I expect to leave the reader with questions weighing on their soul, as to how they might volley – that the literary world turns on itself, and that I may be a cog in that visionary wheel.
Here’s to starting that process, to whatever end it may lead.
Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,