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.