I have been rummaging through all my words, all my pieces, all my prose and thoughts and themes and connecting vignettes and essays and poems for years—rummaging like a garage-saler on dexi’s frantically looking for that one thing, that illumination, thee connection, the answer to what is going to contain it all and make it flow and shine in a brilliance I need to feel. And I need to feel it because I need to know, as only writing has ever shown me, who I am. It has occurred to me over extensive self-examination, watching myself, paying attention to my body and thoughts, voice, and what excites me and what tires me—studying form and reading memoirs and pieces I “should” read as it is “recommended,” looking for groups, swapping with friends tired old pieces, re-editing instead of remaking—I even got to the point of ALMOST paying for a “coach” or editor to help me make sense of this unorganized fuckpool of words. I know what I am saying, but I don’t. And I was getting so tired of it that way, I realized I had been forcing myself into a direction, forcing myself to hold that narrative arc, to find chronology, to have a somewhat steady or at least an almost healthy-sounding pace and tone, keeping it on an even keel.
And then it occurred to me.
I am going against my own grain.
I asked myself what I do love, what writing and reading makes my heart pound and makes me excited and nervous? What kind of writing was I doing when I wrote that exciting as hell essay that Word Riot published? Why do I feel like I am smothering as a writer when I have so much meaner things to say, blunter, more crude, more REAL—because life is that way. Dirty and beautiful. That is the kind of writer I am, and not being that way was killing me. And trying to force all of this into the memoir genre was doing it. Because I assumed maybe that’s what I was—a memoir writer.
I looked around and rummaged through all my things. Again.
And noticed, first, that I hadn’t felt nervous energy and excitement in what I had been reading and writing in a long time–not since I wrote “Something Dark Like Jazz” for Word Riot. That was like a brain orgasm, the whole process. And I decided I am never going to not write like that again. Granted a lot of my pieces (essay chunks and vignettes) similarly made my heart pound–well-thought out ones as well as muse-infused ones, but those were written a long time ago, I just kept rewriting, pulling up the doc, deleting an extra comma. That kind of crap.
So I wrote down all the things I have read that blew my mind or caused that nervous feeling–writers, books, poems, musicians, pieces from blogs and sites and journals and I wrote down all the ones that made me excited-some, thrilled–that that kind of writing was possible. Then I also considered the fact that I have PTSD, I have a history, my memory has large blocks that are missing. I know those parts of my story by my body memories and old flashbacks I am not afraid of anymore. Why then would I write a chronological story?-and one that can’t be contained in just a window’s view of it because there’s too much, spilling into autobiography. As I finished my list, I looked up their names and where they’d been recently published and who was published alongside them. Who they connected to, and then I’d find other pieces I liked, (all essay basically, and well written fast-paced articles), and peculiar things kept happening, like finding Radiohead, Jack White, and Joan Didion on one page…whaaaat. All of this spun into one thing, one direction, one answer–they were all essayists. I have been writing my memoir in what I thought were unfinished chunks I couldn’t connect to with a simple “and then one day…” etc., -and some of those chunks have been published stand-alone.
My god. I’ve been doing essay all this time, thinking I was doing it all wrong, and it wasn’t just fitting me somehow, studying the shit out of memoir “how-to’s” out of desperation in an uninspired, shitty mood. Later on I perused The Essay Review and read David Lazaar’s essay and several others. I fell in love eighty times in one reading session. I. Have. Found. My. People.