I write memoir. For some reason I came into this life equipped only to write personal stories. Whenever I have attempted to make something up it doesn’t hold. It never sounds right. The truth is, despite a rabid imagination, I am not successful in making up stories or fictional characters and fictional situations that might apply to these fictional characters. Far too often I create fictional scenarios for my own life, but these don’t seem to transfer to a character with a name other than mine.
When I want to tell a story, I seem unable to stray from my personal life and the real situations I have experienced. My mind gravitates only to the actual people I have known, the actual situations I have been involved in, as if I am ceaselessly ready to dissect them and ferret out new meanings or deeper meanings.
Perhaps if I had started writing at a younger age—I was in my late forties when I began to take writing seriously—things might have been different. Because by my forties I had become totally fascinated by my own life story and its development. (What happened? How did I get to be the way that I was? …and so on.)
But here’s the odd thing. Whenever I DO try to make up a story, create a different character, speculate on a possible situation and its outcome, my “voice” completely changes. I start talking to myself in pigeon English! Most peculiar. I call it pigeon English, but it’s really the kind of English spoken by someone new to the language. Someone who knows the words on a rudimentary basis and slings sentences together in the most indelicate way. At least hat is how it starts out in the beginning. After a while I come back to myself and rewrite and revise until I recognize my own voice again. But these fictional stories never really come out right. Not like when I write from the personal “I” or the first person.
So I began thinking about what this might mean, as it happened again just the other day. And not for the first time did I come up with the idea that I have been programmed to write memoir. Now I don’t mean that someone else programmed me—I programmed myself. Or rather, I have been programmed by my soul. It’s in my blueprint. It’s part of my path.
Over the years I have realized that when I stray from my path there are consequences, and they are unpleasant, causing guilt, unhappiness and remorse. (For how else is one to learn?)
Who, then, is this other, foreign-sounding voice coming through me that wants to make up a story? Well, it cannot be other than myself in a different guise. She, this other me, appears as a different persona. A woman who seems younger and less worldly than I, who is new to the English language. Her voice, though, is startling in its honesty. She has not had my years of conditioning and thus gets straight to the point.
Here is the most recent example. I was ruminating on how my ex-husband thought I was “crazy.” Or had periodic episodes of craziness. Why he thought that is a story for another time. Now obviously this would fall under the category of personal story, personal history. But it is not my current subject matter. It is not something that would go into my current memoir-in-progress, Book Two of The Nancy Who Drew. And yet, because I cannot help myself from putting everything I think or do into the context of story, a title sprang to my lips: Me No Be Crazy. Right away it struck me that the way I was expressing the idea or feeling—was crazy! But for the first time I began pondering why my thoughts went in the direction of this sort of pigeon English, and that seemed a positive outcome. And that was when the idea started to form that not only is my soul programmed for the personal story written in the first person, but if I should stray from this format, the power of speech will not be taken away from me, but it will be skewered into another form, unrecognizable from the way I normally talk or write, because I am only supposed to be writing a particular story, one that ended before I met my last husband. (And the “crazy” episodes occurred.)
Now, you may think Me No Be Crazy is a marvelous title, and I should pursue it. But let me tell you that this has happened before, and if I go with that voice I will soon become lost. The “craziness” lurks beneath the surface. It is never far from me. It is comprised of disordered thoughts, of confused emotions. I dare not give it power.
Instead, I will stick to the program, the one outlined through direct communication from my guides. A story that is almost complete, and going through the revision process. (Me no be crazy indeed…)