Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A writer's notes. Just the notes.

I make short notes and jot ideas for future blog posts all the time. This week, I'm probably not going to develop any of them into a full post. So here are the notes, just the notes.

> It's nearly impossible to write good nonfiction unless one reads and thinks a lot about good fiction. On second thought it's not nearly impossible, it's just not possible.

> Airports are great places to write. Plenty of dull background noise, people watching opportunities abound, the food is too expensive to be a distraction, and no one expects you to get out of there quickly anyway.

> Try writing about one thing without at least considering its opposite, and you are in the weeds. Probably, one also has to write about the opposite too, at least in the early draft(s).

> It's possible to think we know something so well, and still be mistaken. For 54 years, until the day my father died, my parents celebrated their anniversary on a particular day in April. While looking through documents after his death, my mother found their marriage license. They married one day earlier than they had always celebrated. Not long ago, I was absolutely, completely certain of something an important person in my life had once written to me in a letter two decades ago, and I was including it in a segment of my memoir manuscript. Until I found the letter and read his words again. They were different. I hadn't been wrong exactly, and who knows, maybe only I could see the nuanced difference. But I wasn't right either. In my initial recollections, I may have conflated what he once said to me verbally one year, with what he had written in that letter about a year later. Or maybe not. Whoever tells you memoir is "true" is lying. It's only as truthful as what our memories, and when possible, those dusty old trunks in the attic, reveal.

> When a family member buys a copy of a book in which your work appears the first week it is available, and then gives it to you, and your first instinct is to be insulted that she didn't want to keep it on her own bookshelf, your second instinct – to say thank you – is probably your better choice. I was insulted at first, and then I said thank you.

> A 12-inch stack of not-yet-read copies of the New York Times is clutter to some people, but not to me. To me, it's comfort food.

>A crappy contract is a crappy contract is a crappy contract. "Exposure," "links," "the poor economy" and "a completely new media landscape" be damned.



Marisa Birns said...

You are correct about airports being good places for writing. Though, too often, I become mesmerized by people watching and people hearing!

I've had that same thing happen about remembering something one way and then, after researching it, finding out that it was "off" just a tad.

Ah, yes, not matter how many angles one looks at it, a crappy contract never loses it crappiness.

I also agree with you about the correlation between good nonfiction writing and good fiction reading!

Andrea said... nearly (but not quite) 12-inch stack of yet-to-be read The Sun's and Orion's feels more like a (dreaded) homework assignment (and one more thing I have to dust) than comfort food. If they were newspapers, at least I could toss them in the kindling bin.

Leightongirl said...

Well, I bought your book and it arrived today and I'm going to read your essay and then give it to a friend of mine, a woman, who rides. Does that help?