What to Write, When I Write June 16, 2018
Lately, I have been meeting with a regular writing group. For now, the group consists of one other person and myself. We meet Monday afternoons at a local coffee shop. We write for an hour and a half.
We each write our own thing. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes I write random ideas and journal entries. Sometimes I pursue more disciplined personal assignments. I have quickly come to value and protect this weekly date for its commitment to writing and fellowship with another writer.
Last week, we were talking about submitting work to publications. All the journals have such different personalities. How do you learn to know them all and find the ones that fit and will appreciate your voice and style and content? Sometimes it seems like there are some very smart and good writers who all sound like they came out of the same training program. My friend and I agreed that one of the things we both value is a strong sense of the author's presence. I always think of Jane Austen and Kurt Vonnegut being very similar that way. When I pick up one of their books, I feel like I am sitting down next to them and spending time with them.
I mostly teach screenwriting. Plot is very important in film and screenwriting. I spend hours looking at structure and how narratives are built in television and film and literature. Personally, though, when I read or watch something, I am much more drawn in by companionship.
My writing group showed me a book of micro memoir a couple weeks ago. I have been thinking of exploring flash fiction and flash nonfiction. I enjoy short forms. I like the accumulation of meaning and style. I like how short forms can be created to inform and decode each other through a larger whole.
I was writing on a friend's Facebook wall late one night. I wrote, "Remember that time we bought that truck that we couldn't really afford? And then we used the truck to pick up that free couch that we didn't really have room for? And then we spent several weeks being able to drive around our truck with our couch in it so that we could sit outside on our couch in our truck, because it was the only piece of furniture either of us owned? And then remember how we eventually just gave the free couch to the Antioch Foundry Theater, because we kind of thought of that as our real home anyway, and we knew how to break into the theater and sit on our couch any time we wanted. And then eventually I had to steal the sofa cushions off that couch in order to have something to use as a bed when I moved back to Yellow Springs after 9/11 and the sniper and the bad economy the talking shop vac and that Mardi Gras we spent our rent money on martinis. Remember?"
Huh. Kind of like a micro memoir. I was writing to someone specific for a specific goal. Someone I have a specific history and relationship with. I come from theater. I started with acting. You usually start with the two big questions, "Who am I talking to?" and "What do I want?" It infuses everything with specificity and intention and subtext and tension. So I decided to start a project in my weekly writing group. I opened a new composition book. I started writing a letter to a specific person for a specific reason. An hour and a half passed before I knew it. The story of my life was spilling out. A narrative structure was already present, because I was the protagonist needing to tell the story to this person for this reason.
I think I stumbled into my memoir. It seems like it will be the opposite of micro.