I’ve become one of those people. For years I’ve had a piece of paper taped over my laptop camera that says, “Back up every day.” But the Fucker has me running scared. I’m feeling as if I am getting to the end of the shit I have to say about the subject. And what if it isn’t good enough?
I’ve started reading writing books for the first time since graduate school. I’ve a few pieces of paper scattered around my
working area dining room table that say things like:
“It’s not the tragedy [author] is chasing, but the understanding.” —Beth Kephart
“Who is the memoirist once she has been changed by grief?” Dinty Moore quoted in Jessica Handler’s Braving the Fire
I’m trying to use quotes to keep my
sprawling mess writing under control. I like a good mantra. “Don’t borrow trouble,” I’d tell my roommate who would meet someone she liked and then explain to me in extraordinary detail why the shape of her third left toe and the fact that she was going on a business trip in two weeks would make it totally impossible for her to even ask him out.
I repeat to myself (out loud often as not) what I need to be doing when I feel ADD. “First finish the paper you’re editing, then write a blog.” When I find myself getting up to polish my water glass because it looks dusty or to put three books on
my desk the dining room table away, I can say “First the paper, then the blog.”
Then there are the questions that keep me up at night.
“What is the question you’re trying to answer with the chapter/book?” —Teri Carter
Teri likes to ask me (well, she asks the Internet at large, but I always take it personally) questions about memoir that make me break out in a cold sweat. Here’s what she wrote today:
“One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned about memoir writing is that you have to boil that pot. Or why bother? And when is ‘boiling’ ever comfortable?”
Thanks so much Ms. Carter. Now after I read my MS for organization, errors, lies, irrelevant details, and career-killing typos, I’ll go through and make sure I get everyone good and mad at me. I think I’ll become an engineer like Paternal Clause wanted me to.
What quotes do you love? What questions make you sweat?