Most things we write come out of a moment of enthusiasm
I’m in a bit of a foul mood tonight, and want to write something other than my essay. For my essay I have to write a 500 word story on a friend or family member and then write an accompanying 1300 word essay that explores the ethics of publishing that story. I seem to be having an ethics filled semester doing two non-fiction story telling topics, one for English, the other for Screen. The same issues to do with representation come with auto/biography and documentaries.
To write a confession you must feel you have sinned. But I don’t believe in sin, only conscience and learning.
This is an accurate statement for any life writer to adopt, especially one writing a confessional style piece, and who is not religiously inclined (like myself). I’ve had my own share of experiences and decisions that I could confess to, things that would probably be seen as immoral, selfish, stupid, unreasonable and unacceptable to the average person. But this isn’t their story, it is a small part of mine. I won’t go into it here, because there are too many people whose opinion I do care about will read it. It would alter how they think of me, how they see my being, and for a few lucky ones, how they see my soul. As well as that, my confessions invariably include someone else, usually someone who matters to me. While I would be quite happy to slander my reputation, I am not so unethical as to slander their’s. But does it really matter? This is my story, not their’s. Yes, indeed it does matter. Friends may be lost, relationships may be broken, libel can be found in any biography you read, mine or otherwise.
Perhaps that is why I struggle so desperately with my fiction at the moment. I have so many non-fiction tales that want to be written, that need to be read, they stand stubbornly in the way of any kind of process that involves innocent lies and imagination being fashioned on a page.
In a few weeks we have another assignment due, again a life writing piece. 750 words of our own experience, made legible and appealing to our tutor. It can be so hard to critique a piece of life writing without critiquing the life. What if she doesn’t like what I write, what if it doesn’t appeal to her moral conduct? Being someone who has achieved her doctorate in writing, I shall have faith that she is pretty up to date and capable at marking my work.
A girl today asked if she could write a piece of fictional autobiography because, being only 20, she felt she didn’t have anything worth writing about. It reminded me of what my tutor had told us last week in a different class:
It is a part of the creative writer’s role to take the ordinary and find the extraordinary.
Perhaps I am too forth coming and self-satisfied with my experiences. Should I too show humility and modesty? Perhaps I’m wrong, and she really has lead a scripted life. But then a script is a kind of story unto itself. I wish I could read other people’s stories, my classmate’s works. One gentleman casually revealed that he has a four year old daughter; and I immediately wanted to bombard him with questions, because as a young second year uni student, he has to have a tale to go with that. But going back to the girl, I wish I could know what she wrote in the end. Perhaps an eloquent text about her breakfast, or a whirlwind romance, or a night out with friends. People are too assuming that their lives are ordinary. Yes, they can be ordinary, but that can be a matter of interpretation. If you try to find the uniqueness then anything can be extraordinary. The experiences only you could have are the way you had them because they are the result of every moment you have been there for from birth onward. Every moment is a result of decisions, including this one and the one just gone, the one before that.
So how shall I start my story?
Once upon a time there lived a little girl on Marion road. The house was right on the main road with only a small front yard that was no good for playing in, though the size of backyard made up for it. That house has a lot of memories, maybe the most out of them all. The little girl’s puppy that contracted parvo before he got his vaccinations is buried in the backyard. His name was Barney. The little girl had a budgie that flew out an open window one time, when no one knew its wings had grown back. The little girl burnt her hand one time while taking a tray of sausage rolls out of the oven and had to sit on a beanbag eating one handed while the injured one sat in a tub of water. I don’t remember if the sausage rolls were home made or not. On Christmas morning the little girl woke up at two in the morning and wouldn’t go back to sleep, so her mother unwrapped presents with her all morning before the sun came up and went to bed at dawn. On a particularly rambunctious visit the little girl’s uncle accidentally tipped her into a door frame while pretending to be a horse. In August, in preparation for the picnic being taken to the Royal Adelaide Show, the little girl and her mother made a homemade fizzy orange juice mix, and that was the day the little girl learnt not to shake up a bottle of carbonated liquid just before you open it. When a making a cake once, the little girl and her cousins were put in charge of making the whipped cream for a cake, and whipped it so much that it was in the early stages of being butter. What a waste. The little girl was six when she lived in that house. That was the house she lived in right before her sister was born, and for the first time in her memory, she had to share her mother with someone else. These are snippets from one year in a little girl’s life, all of them unconsciously remembered and fondly recalled late at night. These are the memories of a little girl who fell asleep knowing she was loved. Just love them.