Art and memoir writing are easy bedfellows. While the memoir writer works with facts, data and a fixed historical timeline, let yourself be guided by the idea of “memoir writer as artist.” It opens up your writing.
Who is an artist?
An artist is someone who manipulates material to create something that was not there before the artist’s intervention and now exists on its own. A piece of art also needs to have a communication that elicits a feeling response that links even if elusively to identity.
Of someone who bakes delicious pastries time after time, one often hears: “What an artist!’ But his person is not an artist. Proficient, yes. Expert, yes. But the creation even as piece of perfection does not elicit a response that brings us back to identity. It’s response feeling is purely on the sensual side—perhaps even attributable to the joys of gluttony!
Art and memoir writing: memorists are artists
Every memoirist is an artist who manipulates material to create something that now exists on its own and certainly address not only the writer’s identity but our own. The memoir inevitably creates a world fashioned by the tools of art, wherein metaphor and image play a dominant role. In a memoir, story telling is essential and esthetics rule.
It’s my sense that art and memoir writing ought not to be ever separated.
The memoir writer as artist is an important concept that will enable you to write a deeper memoir than would the limitations of “memoir writer as journalist” or “memoir writer as historian.”
In this category (Art and Memoir Writing) are posts which explore this notion of the memoir writer as artist.
You can approach writing a memoir as soul work or you can approach writing as a depressing, meaningless struggle.
Like many readers of this blog, I myself struggle with the concept of what it means to me to be a writer.
Notice I have written “what it means to me.” I am not much concerned with how other people regard me as a writer. Don’t get me wrong: I want to be read and I want to sell my books. But, I am not concerned particularly with how other people view me personally. What I am concerned with is how I view myself.
Writing as soul work involves an evolving sense of self.
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Each poem clarifies something. But then you’ve got to do it again. You can’t get ‘clarified’ to stay so: let you not think that. In a way, it’s like nothing more than blowing smoke rings. Making little poems encourages a man to see that there is shapeliness in the world. A poem is an arrest of disorder.—Robert Frost, poet
Generating the arrest of disorder of life
When I read the quote above, I did not have to make much of a leap to sense that the words “An arrest of disorder” apply to the task you and I undertake when we write memoir. As the poet so is the memoir writer engaged in art making: the creation of meaning.
More than anything perhaps, we want an arrest of disorder. Disorder seems to be everywhere in life. And so, we take our raw material—the events of our lives and of the lives of the people who surround us—and endeavor to make meaning of it all. In short, we take up our mishmash of events, our disorder of memories, and attempt to make order—or, at the least, to create an arrest of disorder.
This rendering of order proves to be soothing. It is what we deeply wish to achieve in our lives—to have all the disparate and seemingly meaningless (or at least random) occurrences, wishes, pains somehow come together coherently, meaningfully. It all happened, we realize in an “A-ha!” moment, for some reason rather than by chance.
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A memoir writer is an artist. If you are writing your lifestories, you have begun to do the work of the artist, to create as an artist creates. Although you may not think of yourself as a maker of art, you are engaging in the artist’s process of creating order out of chaotic reality.
To make art is to embark on a journey of discovery that leads inevitably, even if in a meandering way, to a greater understanding of yourself and your life. When you practice an art regularly and learn to do it well, your emotions and ideas are disciplined through working within the form of that art and they are transformed. This process of creation has the power to teach you how to live your life— and it will continue to provide insights as long as you pursue your art honestly and deeply. This, too, is the work of memoir writing. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]