"No matter what happens, it's all copy." – Nora Ephron, quoting her mother
Those of us who write nonfiction often offer some variation of this observation to other nonfiction writers, and to ourselves, usually when something unpleasant, or even slightly terrible happens. We lose a job, fall out with a friend, are treated shabbily by someone or some system, crash the car, lose a fight, a chance, a love.
"Ah well," we nonfiction narrative writers and personal essayists and memoir writers say to one another, "It will all be copy one day."
It's a way to remind ourselves that this too shall pass, that while we are gathering even lousy life experiences, one day we will probably write about them, and who knows, maybe by then they won't seem quite so bad. Or maybe by then we will have learned something from the crappy experience, even if that something hurts, even if it's something we wished to avoid learning, even if all we learned is that we never want to learn it again.
As shorthand expressions go, "It's all copy someday," seems to me both spot-on smart, and also a bit sad.
Really? Is that all we can say about the bad luck and bad times that befall us and others? That it's just one more thing? Are we nonfiction writers so crass that we think of every lousy thing that happens as fuel to feed the hungry page?
Or are we keenly aware that going to the page one day with our terrible experiences and complicated emotions, is a gift, a second chance to figure out what we find too hard to process at the time? A way to honor what happened by finding some meaning?