A man that I visited in a nursing home had incurred two broken hips since I had last seen him. He is in his late eighties and apparently facing his remaining life in a room.
There is little about him that is downbeat. He is engaged. Not showing any sign of depression. His demeanor provoked me to look for weakness. Is he crazy, narcissistic, or just a good guy?
I find it easier to find fault than I do in praising him. He has undergone a rite of passage that I don’t think I ever will. I have come and gone into puberty, adulthood, middle age and now early old without any signs of evidence that I ever experience a passage of any sorts. Other than time passing. I feel the same as yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
What I see in him as some kind of psychotic disturbance might be me looking dimly in a mirror. How have I jumped from sixteen to sixty-six without recognition? This man has been in the military and worn several other uniforms, many with badges. Occupations I would have spurned in my younger hours. I wanted recognition but never thought of it doing it the way he did.
Life for me has been more a passing than an entry. Until New Hampshire, moving from one town to another. It is what I see as intriguing about Lee Child’s fictional character Reacher.
Rather than hold to his military exploits, Reacher seems to wander into new realms. Where others might be insecure, he lives one day at a time and becomes prominent as a go to guy, a guy we might ask about life’s meaning. He is a wandering monk. A monastery is his likely next stop, not a nursing home.
One man real, and the other imagination, which one would I rather be?
In Story Engineering Larry Brooks writes, “Theme in any story is analogous to health in our daily lives – the abundance of it vs. the lack of it defines how well we function. A state of heath – and theme – is always present, good or bad, valued or not. Bad health leads to a compromised life. A lack of theme leads to a compromised story.”
I am finding that memoir and fiction writing are closely related. I used to think only poetry could improve my prose, but memoir is producing ideas that are very convertible.
Writers have been in trouble for presenting fiction as memoir. I am surprised that it has not more often been the reverse.
In “Writers Ask’ published by the editors of Glimmer Train Stories Diana Bishop interviews writer/teacher T.C. Boyle . An excerpt;
“I only play a couple of games in my life. One is to make art, and the other is to teach, which is a pleasure for me. I’m totally committed… I like to communicate with an audience…..I could be serving on boards. I could be going to meetings at the university. I could be doing lectures. I could be writing screenplays, I could be writing theater. But I don’t want to do that. I only want to do these few things because I think I can devote myself to them fully and maybe excel at them.
what is difficult or oppressive, or challenging about life, at least for me,” speaks Jean Thompson in Ploughshares.
In an interview with Ploughshares editor-in-chief, Jean adds, “Here is the world that I filter through my instrument of writing and try and make sense of it in an aesthetic way.”
I don’t like dark, bleak things. Jean Thompson does not seem to either. She is editor of the spring issue of “Ploughshares,” a terrific literary magazine published at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Each editor writes an Introduction and I thought hers exceptional. If you are a reader or a writer, read this, and be uplifted. It provides a reader’s resurrection for Easter.
I read the following in Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, “The only way I was able to trick myself into writing a first novel, as well as the first short story I published that I liked (as opposed to the first story I published) was to write both the novel and the story as stories within stories, narratives told by one character to another.”
My reading of this sentence could not have had better timing. During my initial approach, I felt disgruntled and discouraged about not being creative enough to finish one story. Along the way, I have found that I have little difficulty in discovering a subject or muse for a non-fiction piece. Likewise, poetry generally flows for me. Stories though continue to be out of reach. At least their completeness, and novels are tantamount to believing I will be a rich man one day. They are crocodiles in the pond.
Addressing the richness of Prose’ s sentence will take a lifetime, but I am at this point, writing out loud. One of the beauties of WOL is to not feel the pressure of perfection, or the authority of completeness. I can stay at a beginning, middle or end, without self rancor.
The prior post to this one was a reblog. It referenced the need for an artist to have a world within themselves. I hope many of you write and comment on what this world is like for you.
For many years I have written a newspaper column Moments of Bliss. I believe those blissful writings would best come under the heading of creative non-fiction.
I have enjoyed much pleasure from writing them. By affirming my life experiences through the world within, I also have been affirmed as a writer .
Over the summer I took a creative writing course and received further accolades. I remember saying to my teacher toward the end of the class that I wanted to write fiction. Her response was why do you want to do that when you write creative non-fiction so well?
Why indeed? I have since undertaken a fiction writing class online at NYU. While I continue to receive writing compliments, they come with more critique. Through collaborations with my classmates and professor, I have found there are parts of my fictional attempts that I don’t do so well.
I have also learned from my own “within” experiences that I am seeing bits but not all of a fictional story. While I am not ready to end the quest for a fictional piece, have I learned enough from within to focus on what seems to come on more complete terms, creative non-fiction?
Writing out loud.