Saturday, September 28, 2013

Week 6, autobiographical 'slice' & imagination

I'm struggling (and expect you to struggle) with the difference between memoir and autobiography. Google may help, but this is what I think: memoir deals with memories, which can be fallible, can be twisted, can be confabulated, can be wrong. But how you remember it is how you remember it, period. I was there, this is what I remember seeing and hearing--my memoir. You can't have a memoir describing your birth--you don't remember it. But maybe your mother told you some stories, which would lead to...autobiography.

Autobiography is supposed to be more historical, more factual. I was born on this date, my parents were so and so, I lived here, I went to school there, etc. There are records, certificates, report cards, photos, licenses, people to interview, newspaper clippings, letters, diaries, old bills, tax returns, souvenirs, blogs, audio and video. Pull them together and we have the story of a life based on documentary sources, as well as memory. Sure, your mother may have herself a faulty memory about your birth, but at least you're hunting for facts in that interview with her. You're not stuck in your own head.

What I have in mind for this week is autobiography, but not the whole story. I'm calling this week an "autobiographical slice."

Just a piece of your life, a slice of the pie, not everything. You're going to focus on one aspect.

It could be your health, your education, your career, your family, your hobby, your house, your god, your military service, your finances, whatever. And you take just that one slice of you to write about.

I don't think the documentary sources are necessarily important either, though this is certainly the week to pull them in if you so desire.

What is important is that the material deal with your life both factually and speculatively.

Speculatively? Remember this week is about 'imagination' as well as facts. How can you combine two things that seem so opposite? Imagination does not mean fantasy or fiction or even recreating things the way you did in the memoir. It means looking at the material from a fresh point of view, trying to see things you haven't seen before.

At this point I have to write my sample for you because the sample, I hope, will demonstrate what I think the week is about.

I plan to write about my allergies. They are a part of my life, have always been a part of my life, and I have the facts--and I have some ideas beyond the facts too.

Check it out.

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