I’m beginning to write the proposal for my third memoir. Here’s a brain dump of how that’s going, or rather, where it’s gone to get me to here:
It’s easy to KNOW 100% what you’ll write about when you’re suffering through it (Straight Up And Dirty). Or when you’ve already suffered through it once upon a stretch mark ago (Moose). It’s something else to find a story, an emotional arc, within an existing passion, without landing somewhere near the immersive “Year in the Life” memoir subgenre.
A year of: self-help; blind dates; crock pot cooking; mornings; magazine subscription advice; biblical living; saying yes; eating, praying, loving; volunteering; finding happiness; completing recipes; living without TV; living in mental institutions; Kaddish; magical thinking; friend-dates; farming; eating local; celibacy; food life. You get the idea.
It’s a gimmick. The time constraint of a year doesn’t add value to the content, except for a milk & water urgency toward the end, maybe. But, you know what? It’s a gimmick that works. It keeps things nice and tidy; you know what you’re in for, both the reader and writer.
I prefer to believe that suffering or dissatisfaction lead you to make changes in your life, and in retrospect, those changes happened within the framework of a year. Not that you said, “Shit, now what can I write about? I know! I’ll do a year of BLANK, and write about the journey.” The former seems like a marketing bookhook, designed simply to help frame and position a story that already exists, a story that needs to be told, while the latter feels more contrived, deliberate, manufactured. But in the end, I don’t know if it matters. A good book is a good book. And if it forces you out of your familiar, away from easy, I’m all for it.
I won’t get into the topic of this next memoir until I finish this proposal of mine, but I don’t know if it’s a “year of” book or not. What I do know is that it’s a story that needs to be told.