VCCA, Day 3: Just a Little Night Life

I just returned to the studio after a pleasant evening listening to blues, bluegrass and country western music plucked and sung by a few of the colonists. Three guitars, one violin and two sweet voices.  I curled up in the pillows of the couch at the residence hall and listened, sometimes mouthing the words to songs I knew and sometimes just leaning back and closing my eyes. It was just what I needed.

Today was a better day, I think. Still freewriting, but coming up with some meaty stuff. So meaty, in fact, that perhaps I am not ready to face it. I tell my students to wait until they have enough emotional distance from a subject before they write about it, but I’m wondering for myself today just when that might be.

It’s funny, I was talking to a fiction writer who is here trying to write nonfiction about the question of candor in memoir. She said that she felt naked without the thick blanket of fiction wrapped around her. I told her that I felt the same way only my blanket is stitched with poems.

But tonight I realize that it’s not just the fact of candor that has me nervous, it’s the candor that comes with earnest, straightforward narrative. There is more to be risked, for example, by writing the story of my father’s last year to include all the different relationship crises (not only with him, if you see what I mean) that I lived through that year, then there is by writing separate, thematically linked essays/short memoirs (as in a collection) of events in that same year.

One might hide in the white space between chapters. I mean that I can.

This is only one way to look at it, I realize. There is also the pleasure (and truth) of montage. Memory (mine) often fails to narrate, instead offering a flash here, a glance there. This, in fact, was the energy that I was counting on for this project originally. I set out to create an assemblage–a portrait of my father and our relationship, and ultimately, of me (though that is yet a weak spot here) by recounting meals we shared, food as memory and marker.

I have often said that since motherhood, my brain only understands collage, fracture and friction, and thus my work reflects that scatter. I don’t really think this is a bad thing (either in the writing or in my life), but it is perhaps not the saleable thing. Not what a reading public (comprised of whom?) will appreciate.

At the core of it, I just want the temerity to write what I want to write and know that it is good.

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