Sunday, February 06, 2011

Good writing. Duh

After reading a recent essay, I sent up a silent entreaty to the powers that be. Spare my writing students from coming across this. (I'm not linking to it yet, on purpose.)

You see, they are working really really hard to make their memoirs powerful: to engage the reader with compelling scenes, a reliable (or intentionally not) narrator, seamless compression and expansion, well-placed flashbacks and backstory, resonant dialogue, dimensional characters, a strong story arc, and so much more.

And this writer was knocking the memoir genre: "You think you have a story to tell? You're not special enough." That sort of thing. Sometimes I go into mother-hen mode. I didn't want folks to get discouraged. They shouldn't. Their writing is good and getting better.

So, I didn't blog about the piece, didn't want to attract attention to it because writers are incredibly vulnerable. They (we) have to work hard not only at our writing but at silencing the gnarly little gremlins that sit on our shoulders and spit in our ears: "Who's gonna care about this memoir of yours? Why bother? You and your little story suck. Ha! Loser."

The problems the essayist was lamenting were not, however, in the choice of subject matter. The problems were in the writing.

Sill,l I hesitated.

Then I found this succinct rebuttal and said: Yes, yes, yes.

Onward and upward everybody.


Nancy said...

Carol, I just read your comment about the NYT screed (tho you didn't mention the source, the link praising good memoirs did) vs. memoirs, and Genzlinger's rebuttal -- what a brilliant thought he had. Yours was too. I always feel guilty when I look at my old self and think I have the nerve to write about my life. Thanks!

Carol Henderson said...

I intentionally left the source out of my post so that people would have to go to the positive piece before the screed!

Carol Dorsey said...

Thanks for this. I was trying to decide last week if I really want to continue writing about my experiences. I was thinking, "Who cares? Everybody has great stories to tell. Why would anybody want to read about mine?" So, your blog was timely. Thanks to you, Genzlinger, and Dinty, I have an additional perspective: Write well, share mySELF (not just my experiences) and have a genius editor. Oh...and perhaps do some intermittent ironing.

--Carol Dorsey