Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Memoir Writer's 'Hidden Nerve'


I recently came across a book on the "giveaway" shelf of my library - those gems patrons donate and the library charges 50 cents or $1. The book,  Writers on Writing, featured an essay by Andre Aciman, author of the memoir, Out of Egypt.

All writers, he says, have "a hidden nerve,"  a "secret chamber" which stirs their prose . . . something "akin to a signature."

The "hidden nerve" is what makes us tick as writers, what makes us want to write our stories.  It's what writers wish to uncover when writing about themselves in this age of the personal memoir, he says.

And yet, as Aciman notes, it is that "hidden nerve" that writers often sidestep.

I have no idea what I have sidestepped as a writer of memoir.  Perhaps, I have confused confession with introspection.  It's easy to confess.  Introspection  . . . . that takes a whole lot more courage.

I write about a woman in white wedding gown who believed that good things come to good people - that life is something you can control until the illusion is shattered.  Who was that woman?   After all, when we look at ourselves in the mirror, what we see is merely a reflection.
 
Much has been said about how writing memoir brings closure to that which haunts and brings us pain.  Memoir, we are told, helps lay the past to rest, put the finishing touches on that which we needed so desperately to come to terms with.  Through writing our stories, we move on.

Do we?  Or is unfinished business lurking? Can we only move on - and in the process become better writers - if we find the "hidden nerve"; the thing that makes us tick, the "secret chamber" needing to be unlocked and explored?  Do we even know it exists until it hits us with excruciating pain?
 
Our writing prompt for the August read-around of the Women's Writing Circle - which may help us explore the 'hidden nerve':
 
"Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back.  If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare."  ~ Anne Lamott

Write about a moment when you or a character in your story comes to this realization . . . that forgiveness means letting go of the past, of a person, of a hurtful experience.  You can do this either through a scene with dialogue or through inner monologue.

As always here on this blog, your thoughts and comments are welcomed.  The hidden nerve, the secret chamber . . .  how can writers find self-discovery?
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