Sunday, January 9, 2011

A question

How important is context? Do I need to tell you my whole story for these tidbits to make any sense?

Last night I struggled to write about that shot glass for about an hour. I kept going waaaaay over my target of 200 words. There were so many other things I wanted to tell you. I still don't feel like I got the point across. You don't know how broke "broke" was. You don't know how it broke my heart to have him not let me help him. You don't know how important it was in my personal history. Or maybe you do. If you've ever been there...

I wanted to tell you about the squealing serpentine belt, and how comforting it was because I could identify the sound of that car from blocks away, and I knew when he was making a delivery in my neighborhood. I wanted to tell you about the time we were in that car and it started gently raining, and I looked at him and laughed and just slid closer to him, out of harm's way. I felt like if it got too long, it would become too boring for anyone but myself. I felt so limited.

I am torn. Do I remove that parameter? Do I remove that parameter only when it is convenient for me? Am I writing for an audience, or myself, or what? Kurt Vonnegut always said he wrote for his sister. I spent many years writing for someone who probably didn't even know I was doing it, and most likely didn't deserve it. When I stopped writing for that person, I stopped writing. Pretty much.

So. Big questions. Today is a sunny day. I am going to absorb some of it and dwell in the present for now.


  1. I can definitely imagine these questions coming up while writing something so personal in a relatively public forum... questions of audience, who you're writing for, how much that audience can gleam from your story...

    And of course, I think these questions are just as personal in their own way(s) and perhaps they are meant more rhetorically-- but for what it's worth, I just want to say that I completely love these stories so far. I think they hold all the more power because of their being concise-- for the trust you leave to the reader's imagination. The extra details are lovely, though, too-- I think either way when you read these, you'll feel the full story rushing back to you no matter which words you chose to leave out, and for our part, we're just grateful you're sharing. :)


  2. Think of 200 words as a challenge. Use it to hone down your writing, keep it crisp. Write as much as you would like in draft, but then edit down to the bones. Find the emotional core, and strip it as bare as you can to fit it into the space.

    Or, write as long as you would like. This is a journal for you first. It's your memories, after all. Preserve them in the way you think best. But there is a lot of value in learning to mercilessly cut and cut and cut until you find the fewest words that can possibly express your feelings.