Tag Archives: author vs. narrator

The Distance Between Me and Me

23 Apr


I recently workshopped a new memoir chapter I had been working on, and it wasn’t until after I left the workshop that it occurred to me that perhaps the distinction between the author and the narrator had gotten jumbled in the evaluation of the piece.

I don’t enjoy self-deprecating memoirs, but I had written a rather self-deprecating line to make a point about my past.

“We don’t see you this way,” someone said.

I didn’t get the sense that she was suggesting I needed to show evidence in the work to prove I was that way in the past.  I think she was surprised to see my negative statement and was concerned that I had low self-esteem that wasn’t based on fact.

I rambled off some explanation that only made me sound more pathetic and weird, and then I left feeling exposed and awkward.  But I was trying to explain the person I was—not the person I am today.

I believe good writing takes readers into the feelings of a particular moment in time.  When I write about myself, I think back to how I felt when I was going through a particular period.  I try not to censor myself.  I try to be true to who I was at that time.

Maybe I need to write in double perspective.  Perhaps I need to explain right up front that who I was then is now who I am now.  But I feel like writing and reading is a journey, and I think sometimes you have to wallow in the past a bit before explaining away and fixing things, and saying, “I’m alright! I’m alright!  Don’t worry about me.  My story gets better.”

I’m okay with who I was in the past.  I love that shy little middle-schooler and I love that twenty-something who was naïve and nervous and emotional, and I don’t want to change her.  She is the foundation for who I am today.  But she is not who I am today.

The person I am today is not someone who you can get to know in one chapter or one blog post.  I am not someone who you get to know over one semester.  And I am not the same person in the office as I am when I’m at home.  I’m not someone easily identified by the types of books I read, and I hope no one would ever judge me on my indulgent music playlist.  (I think I almost lost a few friends the day I posted on Facebook that I don’t like Radiohead.)

And I hope tomorrow I’m not the same person I am today.  Maybe that’s self-deprecating.  Or maybe it’s just honest.