Writing is hard: A memoir
The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not.
– Amy Poehler, “Yes Please”
Ten weeks ago, I went back to school. Well, sort of.
Two hours of Googling and one very reassuring “this can only be good for you” text later and I was giving Gotham Writers Workshop my address and credit card information. A 10-week workshop sounded nice, and I was getting pretty tired of staying faithful to community news (hell hath no fury like a resident scorned). Both my blog and bedroom were collecting dust, as they still are (consider this a public apology to my boatload of dedicated followers and anyone whose clothes I have stolen and let pile up on my floor). Basically, I considered myself long overdue for one of those life-changing “a-ha” moments you see on the big screen. Like when Harry meets Sally or when Blanche realizes she’s the sluttier of the Golden Girls.
I said to myself, “If all else fails, I guess I’ll have something to write about,” followed by,
“Maybe I’ll even meet a boy.” *
With one class left — and at least 18 pages I would have never otherwise written under my shiny new belt, I can safely say I got my Hollywood ending (minus the part where Lena Dunham shows up at my apartment to offer me a book deal with little to no fine print and a lifetime of free Taco Bell). With just one more rush hour train ride to Bryant Park on my horizon, here’s (a SparkNotes version of) what I’ve taken away from Memoir Writing 101:
Some people are going to really dig your writing,
and others would rather read the back of a takeout menu. Some will grow fond of your flow, your style, your voice, and maybe even your excessive use of commas. Others will not. That’s just how this thing goes.
Some people are not going to “get it.”
Many will. Just make sure they understand who’s who. The rest is up to them.
Make sure you’re getting on the right train.
This is not a metaphor. Balancing work and class is the fucking pits. Make sure that D train is not a B train, or else you might end up taking an Uber home from East Flatbush at midnight with nothing but two dollars in your pocket and a half eaten bag of white cheddar popcorn in your purse.
Times Square is the worst.
Also not a metaphor. Just the cold hard crowded truth.
Keep a journal,
be it in a composition notebook, in the notes of your iPhone or on the back of a receipt. Whatever you do, write it down because, if you’re anything like me, your memory — or lack thereof — will prove to be your greatest enemy in the quest to finish your piece. Think of it as the troll under the bridge that won’t stop asking questions you don’t know the answer to. Be prepared to pay the toll.
Simple right? One would think.
The realization that I will never, ever write enough hit me like a nasty hangover as early on as Week One because — spoiler alert — you can never, ever write too much. Make the time, even if you swear you don’t have it (I, for one, have pledged at least one hour per day I would normally spend Facebook stalking former flames to my forthcoming collection of personal and painfully embarrassing essays).
Write often and write it all, but don’t dwell on writing well. Spill your guts on the page even if that means devoting three and a half pages to the way your college boyfriend looked at you when you drank too much Pinnacle Whipped, and another two to the time you were physically removed from B.B. Kings for spewing on a table full of someone else’s food.
Don’t sweat the small stuff in the first draft (this one’s a metaphor!). Save the heavy editing for drafts seven and eight because, if you’re doing it right, you won’t ever really be finished writing.
* I did not meet any boys.