I have a goal to finish my memoir by the end of the year. Hopefully sooner. There’s a contest in the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program that starts on October 15th that I’d really like to try and enter. It’s a total long shot, but supposedly we hear who the winner is in the spring and that’s better than looking for an agent for “X” amount of years. At least by then if I don’t win the publication, I can be on the hunt because my manuscript would be finished.
I’ve met a lot of interesting people throughout my writing “career”, and with the AWP Conference in LA next year (YAYYYY! You should come and hang with me!) I’m bound to meet many more. I’ve met some people who have written entire novels in six weeks. And I’ve met some people who spent twenty years on their memoir. Everyone goes at their own pace. I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling spent ten years writing the first Harry Potter book, and after it was rejected many times because they claimed it would never be a hit, it ended up being one of the biggest franchises in the world, with their own park within Disney. Some people don’t see the pure gold you have written while others do. That’s what I love about writing and art – there is no right answer. There are a few people I turn to for guidance and honest opinions that do not shut me down completely. I’ve come across too many writers who believe that there is a right and wrong way to writing, and I’m telling you right now…get rid of those people. You want guidance from those who work with you to move forward on your vision, not tell you “it won’t work”.
As for me, I’ve spent the past two years working on my manuscript. My manuscript was my thesis in order to graduate, and now I already know I want to head in a different structural direction. I’m such a revisionist that sometimes it kills me. I could get this book published next year, and talk to me in ten years and I’ll probably say I want to rewrite the whole thing.
The problem with writing a manuscript is that you re-read it a hundred times or more to the point that you are disgusted with yourself. It’s like when you binge watch a TV show and you get annoyed with the characters and what you once thought was endearing eight hours ago makes you want to gouge your eyes out with a spoon like you’re in Hostel. It’s the same thing. Spending too much time with your manuscript can be a bad thing, depending on how you work.
I sometimes wish I could just go off the grid for like a month. Live in the deep woods of Washington State or Canada in a cabin to myself and write as much as I can. I’m in need of inspiration.
Which brings me to The Death of The Memoir. This has been such a hot debate for so long. Memoir. The daunting question of, “Why should I care?” Memoirists have this label of being narcissistic with a painful childhood that feel the need to have all of the attention onto themselves. I actually follow bloggers right now who have written about these things stating that nobody cares about their god awful life and to just quit with the memoirs.
I’m not writing a memoir because I think I’ve had a horrible life, more so than anybody else. Not even close. I’ve had a great life with some obstacles and bad decisions along the way. The hypocritical part is that if I were to write my life and call it fiction, nobody would complain. In fact, I did that once. I wrote a piece that was 95% nonfiction for a fiction workshop, and do you know what the comments were? “This just isn’t believable or realistic.”
I couldn’t stop giggling because it was all of the parts that were 100% true. The setting, the dialogue, the conflict, all of it. Hence why I stick with nonfiction because hearing those comments are too distracting.
It’s the same reaction when I tell people my age and that I write nonfiction. They think my life is just beginning, so what on earth could I possibly write about? This too, gives me more momentum to continue what I’m doing.
So why is it that people are so turned off by nonfiction? You mean you don’t care to hear about Jeannette Walls’ experience living homeless with her erratic parents and siblings, to eventually living comfortably in NYC while her mother is in the alley rummaging through trash bins? I find that interesting as hell. You don’t care to hear about Maya Angelou’s experience being sexually abused by a man while living in the South? That too, is really interesting. Who has seen the movie Unbroken? That’s a true story. And it was a really cool story.
So, it’s hard to believe how many people get so bent out of shape when a new memoir comes out, like, “Oh, it’s another one of those again.”
It’s interesting to read about other people’s lives. I’d rather read about them then see what they bought at the grocery store on Instagram. We read about everyone’s lives everyday on social media, so how is a memoir more annoying than that?