(Number 2 of 3 posts on the Creative Nonfiction conference in Pittsburgh, PA, May 23-25, 2014)
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in needing time to recoup and process after downloading a bunch of information. After a conference, for example, I need time to transition back to regular life, as well as time to assimilate all that I’ve heard and learned. For me, this process of assimilating usually includes writing. I write in my journal and/or blog post. As was Anais Nin’s reason for writing, I write in order to “taste life twice,” and for me, the second time is when I truly savor all the juices and unique flavors.
I took copious notes on day two of the Creative Nonfiction conference, but I have yet to re-read and properly digest them (and I will share some things in an upcoming post). So, this post is my attempt at crystallizing how I feel, not what I learned.
How do I feel? One word: Validated.
I’ve made some decisions over the past couple of months that are both scary and freakin’ exciting. And as I have mentioned in previous posts, as soon as I made these decisions, the Universe opened up and seemed to say, “OK!” Learning about this conference and then actually being able to attend it were major components of this opening. New stones were laid down on my path towards this new life to which I appear to be headed. Then what I heard at the conference seemed to further stabilize the path.
As I listened, and spoke personally, to the various editors and author presenters over Friday and Saturday, these were my points of validation:
1. Creative Nonfiction, and specifically Memoir, is a genre that is “hot” and growing all the time. While at one time personal essays/narratives were practically unknown, and memoir was hidden in works of fiction, the personal narrative is now everywhere. Writers in every field are “teaching” — informing — through story.
2. The new wave of memoir — a genre that took off in the mid-90s — now has this added dimension: Research. Memoirs and personal stories are not just about telling a good story anymore, they need to have substance. They need to be about something. As I just said, they now teach and inform on a subject.
When I began writing, I had no name for the style I was producing. But I was just writing the only thing I knew: my experience.I was writing where I most felt at home — comfortable and most myself. Authentic.
Journaling didn’t seem like “real” writing at that time, but I have since come to recognize that day to day observations of life and feelings are the bedrock to understanding the world around me. How I feel about a subject, whether it is political, social, or intensely personal, has to be worked out in the journal first so I can then write to, and resonate with, a larger audience.
Now the style in which I write has a name and an audience. I write local interest and history stories for my town paper, writing-for-well-being posts for the Transformative Language Arts Network, and my own memoir pieces, all of which need my personal insight, feelings, and (human) experience in order for others to relate, to learn, and to be informed by them — rather than them just being narcissistic pieces of “feel good” for me. What truly makes me feel good is when I hear that my writing has inspired someone else. Then I know it has fully served its purpose: helped me — as the act of putting words to experience and emotion does — and helped others.
My memoir is the story of a girl who lost her voice/self as a result of religious indoctrination and leaving her home country, and the woman who found it again. It’s a pretty good story in itself, but I had recently decided to incorporate my research into a feminine-centered spirituality and women’s psychological development. This decision has been validated. A new genre of which I knew nothing other than through reading Sue Monk Kidd’s “Dance of the Dissident Daughter” and Candace Pert’s “Molecules of Emotion,” is apparently ready and waiting for the book I am writing.
To read snippets of my memoir, “Sing from the Womb: Leaving Fundamentalism in Search of Voice,” click here.