What You See Is What You Get

“Your memoir sounds just like you,” one of my coresidents said to me the day after our reading. I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a compliment. The reading was as intimidating as hell, as each person was better than the last. But once I got up and started reading, it was fine.

People only laughed at some of my funny lines, but maybe they were laughing on the inside. The sad stuff was sad. There were no words there that did not belong. (This is what happens when you cut a 6-page piece so it fits into a 4 min, 18 sec spot—not that I timed it or anything.)

Some of us stayed up late that night drinking and talking. We talked about being writers. We talked about being straightforward. We talked about being gay or bi or straight. We talked about our mothers, and we talked about writing about ourselves.

I’m not very good at lying. I’m not even very good at prevarication. If you ask me a question, I’ll answer it. The only way I can not answer it is to say “You know what, I’d rather not talk about that right now.” Otherwise I tell you what the fuck ever you want to know.

Even a few years ago I might have been worried when someone said my memoir sounds just like me. I’d have worried that it was too direct, or without enough art. But fuck that. I am writing about things I have seen, experienced, or thought about. I should hope I sound like myself.

What do you sound like?

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10 responses to “What You See Is What You Get

  1. isn’t that a mixed metaphor? I am fine with the fact that your memoir “sounds” like you, but then how about the title? Just sayin’…

    Lest your readers think that you and your middle sister only know how to bicker (that’s just our blog personas. We’re actually very close, and … never bicker), let me change tack.

    Speaking of metaphor, I am re-reading Susan Sontag’s illness as metaphor. It’s so terrific! I am going to read bits to my class today.

    And now, just to chop and change, and underline for your readers that it took mom and dad more than just three goes to get the formula right (and you are far more perfect than your middle sister), back to your memoir sounding/looking like you: wow! what a compliment! I wonder rather if that means that you sound/look like your memoir. they don’t really know you, those listeners. But, they can listen, and you can write. You’ve painted a picture (another metaphor) which is believable, and they’ve bought it. Victory! well done.

  2. Does anyone really know what their own writing voice sounds like?

    My stuff always sounds to me like the voice in my head, but that may not be objective.

    Maybe if someone else read it?

  3. Of course your memoir sounds like you, especially when you’re reading it out loud. This is feedback that means nothing. Shove it in a bottom drawer. Ignore ignore ignore.

    As for the art, my own experience is that the art came much later. As in years. I had to get the whole thing down on paper first (this happened, then that happened, etc…) and find the structure first. Then, art.

    One of my favorite writers claims to work on one very specific thing at a time. Write it all out. Then structure. Then delete every instance of “is” verbs. Then replace every “thing” and “just” and “it seemed” and “it.” Then read each scene on its own and ask “why are you here?” and “what was I feeling/thinking when this happened?” Which leads to some art, etc…. You get the idea.

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