Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Creative Recycling

Everybody seems to be writing a memoir these days. I just finished one myself. And we have probably all heard memoir called The New Novel.

This is understandable of course. Memoirists focus on the most intense and dramatic and powerful periods of their lives. I did the same – told the story of my long battle with cancer and the people who battled with me – bless their souls.

Now that I have that out of my system I feel a longing to get fictional again. BUT – I still have lots of intense and dramatic and powerful personal material as yet untapped and unwritten.

There is the fraught and damaging childhood. There is the fraught and damaging first marriage followed by its fraught and damaging aftermath. I have fraughtness and damage enough to fill what might be a million pages. And so probably do all of us.

But what if we no longer wish to wallow? What if we do not even want to wade in to begin with? What if we love better the land of imagination and once upon a time?

Does that mean we have to jettison all of that great material? I say – absolutely not. Fraughtness and damage make very effective fiction after all.

But – does fictionalizing mean we are doomed to slog through the literal scenes of our most hideous history like damage déjà vu all over again? I say – absolutely not.

What it does mean is that we harvest the humanity of those heart-heavy happenings. We tap the trauma and drain the drama. Because – it is not the facts ma’am that matter most. It is the feelings.

All of that stuff we’ve been dumping on our shrinks for decades serves a powerful fictional purpose when recycled into emotional stories.

Get to the gut of it. Dredge up the details from deep down. Then tell the hell out of your best bad times in a tale that will knock the world off its feet with the power of the feelings imaginatively retold.

We all have an internal recycle bin filled to the brim and waiting to be written into the light. I certainly do. But – instead of wallowing – I’m in the mood to play. So let’s pretend.


kathleen said...

Oh Alice, My gosh, do you ever nail it! I mean the idea of getting through the muck and putting it behind you so you can pretend and play. That makes me even more motivated to get on the other side of my memoir-to put it to rest so I can explore what else awaits. Thanks for your ongoing "no-nonsense" inspiration!

DreamWeaver said...

"We tap the trauma and drain the drama" - killer line! Think this will be my new mantra, as I wrap up the past several months of writing for healing purposes and turn those experiences into something filled with laughter and hopefully insight for those still in the position that had me running for the hills. Thank you!

Alice Orr said...

Thank you Kathleen for your encouragement to keep on keeping on with this blog. I hope it continues to be useful to you in your career choices. I am also eager to see what you will do next when the memoir is completed. What a wondrous new adventure that will be. I wish you godspeed.

Alice Orr said...

Amen to that DreamWeaver. Fortunately or not.. life continually continues to provide us with heaps of drama/traums to draw upon. We can attribute this intense experience to our characters in fiction.. Use it to make memoir powerful.. Allow it to enrich nonfiction of all kinds on any number of levels. This is lemonade from lemons.. or perhaps more accurately raspberry cordial from raspberries.. in spades. Good luck to all of this will all of that.