So, considering what I’ve talked about over the past few days concerning non-fiction, faulty memory, non-fiction, faulty memory, non-fiction, repetition, and my faulty memory, what exactly does one (i.e. I) do about the problem?
The No-Memory-Of-What-I-Was-Like Problem
Well, who was I? And if I don’t know, then who does?
These are good questions (and there answers are necessary to the writing of the essay), so I better find someone who can answer them. Namely: my mom.
My mom is the one who told me about the changes wrought in me, so who better to tell me what I was like before? In non-memoir terms, this is what’s called research. In memoir terms, this is what’s called prying. Of course, when you are prying into your own past, you are the only one who can rightfully call yourself a nosy, good-for-nothing, intervening little prick.
And if you’re calling yourself that (I’m looking at you, You) then you have more pressing problems.
Of course, there’s another option. I like to call it “imagination”.
What was I like as a child? What, taking my mom’s comments as a guide, would I have been like? What do I wish I was like? All of these and more can be your (my!) memories of yore!
The Paucity-Of-Memories Problem
So… that suggestion I made for the last problem also works here.
Mom: You’re going to make memories up? But I gave you such good ones!
Yes, but I don’t remember them.
Mom: Ungrateful brat.
By the way, reader o’ mine, this isn’t my real mom.
Mom: I’m not?
See, the benefit of making up memories is that you get to make up ones that don’t have anything to do with reality but have everything to do with themacity.
Mom: Did you make that up, too?
Mom: If you make something up, how is it still non-fiction?
Mom: Are you going to answer it?
The More-Philosophical-Than-Narrative Problem
Okay, I’ll answer it.
It’s not that I’m making up memories so much as I’m putting flesh to what is likely a memory, or what is half a memory, or what I know to be true but don’t remember.
Granted, when this happens, I usually make the distinction clear to my readers (Hi, Brendan!), and since most of my non-fiction pieces are about or involve the quicksilver quality of memory (i.e., it’s a metal and it is poisonous) these partial truths fit right in.
Of course, that doesn’t answer the more-philosophical-than-narrative problem.
That problem seems to be a result of writing poetry for so long, and the fact that my poetry has come more and more to resemble image-laced monologues. What I mean is that each is voice-driven, and that voice takes precedence over narrative. And that each is language-rich, and that language may be focused on words rather than scenes, verbal wit and images rather than physical handles the reader’s mind can build pictures from.
This tendency works (at least part of the time) in poems because poems are language vehicles, bullets of thought rather than of plot. A poem can hook a reader on the sound of the words while an essay has to hook a reader on the thought itself, and those thoughts, in essays, need to be dressed in scenes.
So, what I need to do is go back and pick out a wardrobe. The thoughts underlying my points about aliens, alienation (from both the self and the other), the development of the self, and the limits of knowledge are already there (mostly) in the essay. What I need now are the scenes that keep a reader hooked over the course of six thousand words, the narrative that drives readerly curiosity.
And now wait, with baited breath, as Andrew prepares his blog for publication, having only eight minutes before the day is done and his wager is lost and the Green Knight comes to take his reward. Wish him luck.
Or not. You know, whatever holds your interest.