Am reading Natalie Goldberg’s new book, Old Friend From Far Away. It’s about how to write memoir. There are tons of exercises, which I have not been doing. But I’ve been enjoying the book anyway and right in the middle of it I realized I’m writing a lot of memoir these days.
I was trying to force myself into the journalism mode with the magazines but it didn’t work. I kept finding memoir in magazines, pulling them out, writing my own. Even the short story is memoir with made up parents. It’s based on a big experience in my life. And I’m writing about my kids. (“Snow Day”) and my marriage (“Elephant”).
So that’s what’s new here. Funny it should take me so long to figure it out. Really, it took the book and me not doing the exercises because I read them and think “I just did this yesterday.” Still, I am loving catching up on Nat’s life. Seems after her last book, which was met with either indifference or disapproval, she didn’t write for eight months. Imagine a writer of her prominence not feeling confident enough to write. It’s humbling.
She’s still saying things I disagree with, like “you can’t write about writing.” Why would she say that? Creative memoir is available to everyone and she got famous writing about writing. But then she’ll write something that makes me think, like “Writing has this quality where all the effort and desire in the world don’t do shit.” Or something beautiful and profound like “We each are endowed with original mind, which is like a river under the visible river, unconditioned, the immediate point where our clear consciousnes meets the vast unknown…”
So I keep reading. And this morning, at a loss for morning pages, I found myself actually doing one of the exercises. Might as well face it, I’m writing memoir these days.