memory©

There’s a lot of scary things that happen when you want to become a writer, for example:

People ask “what do you hope to do with your degree?” and you say “write” and they say “okay, but how will you make a living?” and thus you are propelled into a brief existential crisis wherein your heart yells “WRITE!” and your brain momentarily devolves into a static of golden arches and cash register cha-ching noises and Big Macs and concludes “probably McDonald’s.”

After that conversation, you recall that the last McDonald’s you were at had no more than three employees working, as the cashiers had been replaced with big touch-screens, and you wonder if maybe another fast food chain, a Burger King or Wendy’s (or if you’re really desperate, a Taco Bell) will hold off on replacing all human intelligence with robots in time for you to secure a job post-graduation.

But you push all of that to the back of your head, right? And you just keep writing, you keep writing until you have something, something worth sharing. And you take that thing worth sharing and you try to share it, you copy and paste it into a Google Doc and download the Google Doc as a .pdf or .txt file so that it’s in one of the accepted submission file types and you look over the piece one more time when you realize you can’t. It’s about somebody. The poem is about somebody, the type of somebody who will make sure that they see the poem.

Yeah, the looming prospect of unemployment is certainly scary, as is the inevitable take-over of artificial intelligence. The scariest part of writing, though, for me at least, is trying to figure out how to reckon with writing what you want to write about (or, rather, who you want to write about) responsibly. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, perhaps because the poems which I feel most strongly about are the poems which tackle the things that are closest to me, and oftentimes those things are people. I find myself most proud of the poems which are confined to a private existance for one reason or another.

I’ll leave you with a quote that’s been bouncing around my head for a good couple of days now. Moshe Kasher, while reflecting on the time he was sued over a line in his memoir, said on Episode #943 of the Joe Rogan Experience, “You can’t just grab memories thinking that all of your memories belong to you because other people are in them, ya know?”

2 Replies to “memory©”

  1. Natalie~
    I completely sympathize with your comment about “tying to figure out how to reckon with writing what you want to write about…responsibly.” A lot of times, I try to tackle big topics in my writing, like domestic abuse. Recently, I’ve been working on a piece about eating disorders. This is a touchy subject for multiple reasons, one of the biggest being that I never want to dramaticize the illness, or write something that would lead a reader to believe something about the illness that isn’t true.
    One way this responsibility could be fulfilled is to do research on a topic. I scanned through many reliable sources about the history of eating disorders, treatment, and mental state while I was crafting my work. Although it isn’t a real account of someone struggling with anorexia nervosa, it does hold truth.
    Truth is our most powerful tool as writers. Even someone who perpetually thinks he or she is 100% right all the time will back down in the face of truth, or fact. It is important to keep this in mind when writing any piece of work. The truth is irrefutable, and can be used to fulfill a writer’s responsibility to capture sensitive subjects.

  2. Natalie,
    I feel this concern too. In addition to poetry, I enjoy writing CNF (I feel like the line between these is sometimes blurred as it is). A friend suggested that I send for publication a final portfolio CNF piece I’d written last year. My response: NO, not THAT ONE! It has so many close details (too close for comfort) about my family and myself and our history (some of it dark and difficult). And yet, I was proud of this piece and would like to update it and allow others to see it. But I don’t think it ever belongs out there in the published world, not under its current terms at least.
    It’s a fine and frustrating line to walk when dealing with secrets not solely our own.

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