Monday, April 07, 2008

On Being a Hider

I think the reason I will always prefer writng fiction to person essay or memoir writing is simple: to write a good memoir piece, whether short or long, requires raw, often embarassing levels of honesty. In fact, allowing yourself to look bad, to be messy and pliant on the page is rather a necessity of the form, I think. Nobody cares if you're a saint, or have made a ton of great decisions--what people want is to be reminded that you are as damaged and nuts and silly and human as they are.

And who the hell wants to admit that?

Well, some great writers actually. I finally got myself to read Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling memoir of her yearlong journey through Italy, India and Indonesia, Eat Pray Love--one of those books I walked the line on for so long purely because of its popularity (a stupid habit I've cultivated). And I really enjoyed it, far more than I expected--especially when she was baring the more vulnerable parts of herself or being self-deprecating. I wish I had this talent on the page. Apparently I'm the master of self-deprecation when I give a presentation, but that's to deflect from my nervousness.

And I don't mind making a fictional character appear weak or messy--in fact, I probably need to learn how to write stronger characters--ones who demonstrate more of the positive qualities on the scale of human experience. I guess you could say I'm a hider. I don't want you to see my shame and my weakness and my faults, but I suspect that if you read all of my unpublished novels, you'd know what they were anyway :)



At 6:53 PM, Blogger Ann Wilkes said...

Yes, Jordan, it bleeds out anyway when we write fiction. But writing it as fiction isn't nearly as scary. I think it helps us to work up to the memoir. Or if we put enough of our own foibles into our characters, then maybe we release all that story that needs to get out? As horrendous as some of my rough spots have been for me, personally, they're not all that unique. The challenge, I think, is in getting the raw emotion onto the page whether it's fiction or memoir.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Ms. Theologian said...

I always end up a worse person in memoir. :)

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Ann, it does bleed out when we write fiction. Good point. I agree that "raw emotion" is definitely one of the goals of good writing.

Steph: According to who? We are rarely the best judges of our own selves, or self-reflections as is the case in memoir.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger Maryanne Stahl said...

I loved Eat.Pray,Love!


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