It doesn't seem to matter what I do or don't do......I can't get back to this page more than twice a month. No wonder I doubt that anyone reads me. It's not that I don't care about this blog; I do! I do! It's that the subject of this thing in the first place absorbs nearly all my time as I learn about its demands, its truths, its strengths and weaknesses.
So, where am I on this path? In a maze much of the time. Revisiting ad nauseum, I write and rewrite now, slashing and burning through needless words as I hone this down to something more than a brain flush, and in the distilling I am discovering my original purpose: who am I and how did I get this way? What have I survived, to what did I contribute, and who gets blame/credit. I have learned the power of forgiveness, the incredible importance of mothering well, and the immeasurable devastation when that is done poorly or not at all.
I have read umpteen memoirs, have written and rewritten countless personal essays, now coming to be known as small memoirs (thank goodness!) and count among my friends some new people we fondly call editors, but who are in fact guides along the path to self-encounters and then hopefully on to publishing if that's what a writer wants. Oh, I want! The mechanics of same are so daunting as to be a foreign language , the mastering of which is a process, long, and convoluted, but worthy. The guides are, I find, generous, and nothing at all like their bad reputations as holier-than-thou, contemptuous of newbies, and unapproachable. They simply look for quality that is profitable. And they are inordinately busy. That has to be true, for the average length of response from them is three months.
Those at the other end of my thoughts, whether readers or editors, need to be recognized for the work they do. Writers, especially new ones, tend to think of editors as gatekeepers to the promised land, with the power to let us live or make us die to the world of readership. In fact, they are daily inundated with words. Words strung together sometimes with great beauty but saying nothing of real value, words falling all over each other pell mell, without purpose or substance, words without a beginning or an ending, words much like those in this sentence, not knowing where they are going, or what they are saying.....we call that 'free-write"....highly amusing....words that, in spite of our intentions or our lack of skills, sometimes say the most erudite, or astonishing, or profound things, the source of which is often a mystery to the writer.
My own romance with words is an ongoing love story as my inner writer tells me in memoir how those events I recount have shaped me into the person I am, the one who sits here at the computer typing so fast I can't get it said fast enough. From a negating mother so detached from her offspring as to hardly recognize us as people, even people sprung from her own body, I have a lifetime of finding that I actually have fingerprints, actually exist beyond my own suspicious mind, finally to discover I am.
In this current atmosphere of memoir, with untold numbers of us writing our lives, there is an audience for "how'd they get through that" and even a voyeuristic bent to their interest. But I think we read memoirs avidly because we're all sort of in this together, sitting around the campfire outside the darkness of the cave, sitting under moonlight telling each other our stories of how we killed the bear, or fed the clan or became shamen or simply didn't get eaten by monsters. We are telling the stories of survival of sometimes quite deadly things, of glimpses of intense beauty and impossible triumph over the large things and the small.
I think I have something worth saying. I think I'll get that done. That's a quantum leap from last year as I discover this new world of new people whose lifework is to place what writers have to say in front of readers who avidly, even hungrily, devour words. Learning to say things that need to be said and then heard, and doing that well is so much more than putting words together in a meaningful way. Writing a memoir that captures, holds and absorbs a reader is to put that person right there in my story with me, whether in the alfalfa field flying a kite, or fishing with a little brother, or dodging an abuser, or overcoming orphanage life, the reader must be able to go there, in fact, must want to be running to get there with me, out of breath and expectant for what else could possibly conspire to erase someone's sense of self. To be nobody, and then to stagger uphill, reaching out for helping hands along the way to discover the somebody she has become, that's a story of triumph over neglect, jealousy and silent rage.