Today is Sunday and while I am not one of those people who turns each Sunday to the New York Times’ books section, I did this week. And very glad for it.
One of the things that I do with my clients who are writing memoirs is discuss what a memoir truly is, how it can work (in writing there are very few definitive rules and answers), and help them understand what their story is. To this latter point, it is not that you survived cancer, it’s that thematic element that came from the experience to which you can tell a true story that describes that as yet unsaid truth.
Well, in today’s Times there is an interview with Erin Lee Carr—her father was Times journalist David Carr—who has just published a memoir about her relationship with her father that delves into her own alcoholism and his influence on her. The memoir is titled All that You Leave Behind. I have not read it yet.
She’s a documentary filmmaker and when revising her first draft—she thought it was too rosy—she sought a way to take a deeper dive into what her story is and the deeper truth it reveals. This is very good stuff and well worth reading.
The key piece of advice is that she started writing down phrases such as, “I’m mad at you,” to see how it felt and what thoughts came to mind. I would suggest—as a way to get past the front of brain and more into the intuitive subconscious—revising it slightly to read, “I am mad at you because…” then writing what thoughts appear. Perhaps the better way is to say the phrase to yourself and then write what immediately comes out. This should give a good starting point.
She also describes—and they have a photo that I used above—how she used note cards to layout the chapters for her book and a few other organizational and motivational details that I think are of real value to any writer or creative person.