Pull up a seat

When I first decided to take a year off to write I figured now there’s something people might be interested in. I should propose to the Globe and Mail, the Star, even the Post, to write a weekly column about the trials and tribulations of one bureaucrat (with A.D.D) trying to get started as a writer. It would be like reality TV, The Biggest Loser, that sort of thing and at the end you’d find out if it worked or not and whether any publisher was remotely interested in what I was doing. Leah McLaren gets paid a lot of money to just blab on about the things she thinks are important, interesting, boring, relevant to her. Why not me?

But it occurred to me that no one, and definitely not a big newspaper, would be interested in the struggles of someone nobody knows or cares about yet. People’s crazy train wreck escapades are interesting because they’re famous. A risky investment on the part of a newspaper, with no guaranteed return of anything. So I dropped the idea and anyway it would have required writing up a proposal and getting rejected, which I wasn’t up for yet. I have since adjusted to that reality.

“So what are you writing?” I get asked all the time. I’m not sure people are all that interested since they seem satisfied with the answer “memoir and fiction.” “Great”, they say. As far as I’m concerned my response sets me apart only from poets and people who don’t write at all, and says almost nothing about what I’m working on. But that’s ok. When I ask anyone “How’s work?” I guess I don’t want very much information back either.

Sometimes I get the response “Memoir?” behind which I’m convinced lies the question “What have you done that’s worthy of writing a memoir about?” I understand that. Usually people have a big life full of happenings, or do something of particular note and then have what to write about. I imagine from most people’s point of view I’ve had a relatively small life, a bit out of the ordinary, but not much.

“I’m not writing my autobiography” I say to be clear, “just some funny stories about my life, about my relationships. I seem to have a lot of material.”

Life’s full of trade-offs. Some folks get life-long love or something that imitates it. I get material.

A few months ago I was listening to the CBC and the host was talking to two individuals who have recently had their memoirs published. One had worked in a Boston prison library, the other had taken a pilgrimage in Spain with her daughter and assigned herself profound questions to discuss with a number of friends through letters. Both interesting enough topics I suppose. But listening to the interviews I started to wonder if life and the capturing of it in writing wasn't being flipped on its head. People no longer write about their notable experiences but rather seek out notable experiences in order to write about them. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that but it seems a bit contrived.

I went to a workshop on publishing a few months ago and was told that memoir is the current “it” genre. The facilitator only told us after we’d all gone around to say what it was we were writing. The short story folks looked a bit dejected, the appetite for that genre we were informed seemed to be waning, long fiction was holding relatively steady, poetry was in a special world of its own made up of bold people who had no expectation that a major Hollywood film would be made from their work, and me, the only one writing memoir out of 20 of us in the room. I felt secretly elated then worried that 2/3 of the people there would run home and immediately begin writing theirs.

Some have suggested I self-publish. Self-publish? How humiliating is that? As a girl who has had a deep, life-long need of affirmation from others (see my memoir if it ever gets published!!!) publishing myself was simply NOT an option. And then there’s blogging. Ya, ya, ya, a blog. My dad blogs, he’s 80 and has spent a lifetime ahead of the curve, often in his own mind or on paper, but always ahead. My friend Bryan asked me again about blogging a few days ago. Ya, ya, ya, I know, I should blog. He went a step further. “I could set one up for you. It wouldn’t take me long. Go on, register a domain. So I did.

Maybe the timing is right. Maybe it no longer matters about the Globe or the Star or the Post. Maybe the great and frustrating thing about being an adult writer with A.D.D. is you need to be going in a bunch of directions at the same time. So here I am firing off in yet another direction. Thanks Bry!!

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