Long before I even considered writing memoir, I stumbled upon Dani Shapiro’s book Devotion: A Memoir and I couldn’t put it down. She writes with such honesty as she explores her relationship with her son and husband – I finished the book in a day and still felt hungry for more. Luckily, I came across her blog “Moments of Being” and was able to get my fix. Although she doesn’t post as often as I’d like, she uses her blog to explore her writing process. I find is really comforting that someone with numerous books and awards feels some of the same things that I do. Lately, I’m really battling with what it means to be a writer. I’m really struggling with the concept of a “writers work,” and I am fighting to give myself permission to be a writer – even if that means I never get published or paid of the work that I do. Anyway, it is becoming more obvious to me that I need to rekindle my passion for writing. Dani’s latest blog post gave voice to some of the feelings that exist inside of me. She writes:
“Every single day, the writer begins again. When we wake up in the morning, when we roll out of bed, brush our teeth, splash our faces with cold water, make the coffee, the toast, pack the sandwiches into lunch boxes, bundle our children off to school with the proper mittens and hats and sports attire and homework, when we wash the dishes, make the beds, answer the emails, walk the dogs––until the moment when we finally sit down at our desks, we are preparing to begin again. We may be halfway through a novel, an essay, a story, a memoir. We may be nearing the finish line on a piece of work that has taken us years. We may, in fact, be attempting to start something new. But wherever we are within our work, we have never been exactly here, today…read more”
I don’t believe in stories. I know, I know, that’s a strange thing for a writer to say, but it’s not a wholly radical thought. Grace Paley said any story told more than twice is fiction.
Stories are false. First of all they are contrived, but even writing a “true” story is much like looking out the window: there are constraints, artificial limits to your view. There’s a false sense of boundary — a beginning, middle and end. There’s a sense of completion that doesn’t ring true. Pure stories don’t stop, not even for the dead.
This idea, the limitation of story, isn’t new for me. Over the summer, I became obsessed with footnoting fiction– every line had a footnote that led to another story, but as I’ve attempted to write this memoir, it has become glaringly apparent that stories are slippery little buggers. Why?
Because I am imposing false elements, not on fiction, on a life. Did my story truly begin the moment I broke up with the Christian? Does it end when I find my soulmate?
Where my story ended, several others continued. For some, my climax was a new beginning. Can you see how this all gets confusing?
No memoir is an island…supporting characters aren’t as obedient as the ones that I create in my fiction. So what do you do when these thoughts clog your mind? You write 500 prefaces, you read to keep from writing, and you live everyday like a character in a novel…
Hopefully, this writer’s block passes and everything falls into place.
I’ve always been one of those people, you know the “I’m not spiritual, I’m religious” types, so I was really delighted when I came across the Huffington Post article by Ed and Deb Shapiro. I was raised Roman Catholic, but, after years of undoing some of that Catholic guilt, I’ve decided to identify as “spiritual” rather than religious. I’ve always felt that spirituality somehow moves beyond doctrine to some place more universal; however, I understand the folks who think that “spirituality” is code for cherry picking the religious principles we like while avoiding the ones we don’t.
I think the Shapiro’s capture the essence of my beliefs when they write:
“Where religion tends to breed separation — my religion vs. your religion, my God is the only real God, my ethics are better than yours, etc. — spirituality sees all people as equal. We are not an “ism” or a label, we are spiritual beings whose purpose is to awaken to our true nature.” Check out the article here