Learning from Writers

I’ve been reading portions of William Zinsser’s Inventing the Truth, a collection of pieces by talented writers on The Art and Craft of Memoir. It lays open in a place that I’ll see it throughout the day so that I can noncommittally pick it up and think about what the writers have to say about their respective experiences writing memoir.

One of the pieces,”Points of Departure,” by  Jill Ker Conway discusses so many different things worth my consideration.  But what I can’t get past is the sheer magnitude of her life — and that I’ve never heard of her before.  How does that happen, and why, after learning of it all, do I not feel insignificant?

Most likely because I’ve never suffered from being or feeling insignificant.  Of course, everything is relative, so it’s easy to say that I’ve been significant to my family, or good friends, or a student here and there.  Perhaps even to birds I’ve trapped inside and released before they hurt themselves crashing against a window to get out.  Definitely the IRS since they can depend on us for tax dollars. But I’m not talking about any of that.  It’s so much larger than the tiny details that we essentially are.

I wander through my day and think, “What does it mean?”

I’ve learned that Anne Lamott’s KFKD will play, relentlessly telling me all things non-constructive — anything to keep me from actually writing something relevant.


At least if I continue to read Conway, I’ll write, but I’ll want to write about what distracts me, such as her opinion about women being “lodged in family networks [being] very attractive to the political right because it provides a good reason for keeping [them] from establishing a strong independent identity of their own.”

That’s a few good days of writing all by itself.

Instead, I’ll think more about what she has to say about memories and their separation from the emotion they so readily evoke.

I’ll also think about her question, “Why did it happen that way?”

In the meantime, I’ll write, too.

It’s easier to take on.

Girls are certainly different now, aren't they?



4 responses to “Learning from Writers”

  1. Some girls are different and some girls aren’t. This is part of the reason why our country finds itself in the quandry it is in. I not only blame the “right” but I blame religion (not to be confused with God or spirituality) as well. I pray for the day when all girls believe that the are significant – no matter what they do.

  2. Hear, hear!

    Well said Beth! I’m afraid it’s my turn to return the favor of insanely lengthy comment. But since you have done so for me, My Dear Kelly, I shall indeed return the favor.

    (At what point did I go all formal-like?)

    I agree with Beth on the subject of women’s place in society. Organized religion (not people of faith, that is entirely a different matter), along with governments and a system of subjugation that has been in place for an insanely long time do more than the Right, or the Left, or the Middle.

    The simple fact is that these institutions are crumbling, along with many others. In some cases that is not at all a good thing. In the case of a woman’s place in Western society, it’s a fabulous thing.

    My ancestors were Native American. Women were not thought of as less than men, but rather they were thought to have a different set of responsibilities. Everyone was a part of the community and their strengths were thought of highly by the whole. The same is becoming true in America and it’s about bloody time.

    The heroes, especially literary heroes, of my youth always portrayed their women as strong, decisive and if anything, more intelligent than the men around them. I tended to agree, since my 5′ tall mother was stronger, more decisive and far more capable than anyone in my family.

    There are those of us who have already crossed the line from a “woman’s place” to assessing worth based on an individuals skills. I think this number will grow, and that the time has passed for religious leaders or governments to stop it from continuing.

    And all of these are good things indeed.

  3. loripea

    What a great picture! So, sweet. How old were you? I’m guessing 7th grade.

  4. “I’ve never suffered from being or feeling insignificant”


    I am feeling like the biggest most insignificant, failure, letdown and all around basket case as of late.

    But…I was really happy to read “In the meantime, I’ll write, too”

    YAY. I love when you write. But you know THAT already.

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