Do enough drugs and the trees will talk back

I don’t know why I have to drink beer when I brown beef but I just do. Maybe so I’m doing something other than drinking. I went back to my notes from Friday morning on Cougar Mountain with the dog, debated breaking my blogging habit, but came back to carry over my notes, cracked the window to let the smell out: the ant guy had been back Friday and we told him about the mouse, but I found it after he left in the bottom of the garbage can staring at me, and Dawn took it to the field across the road and tossed it there. It’s hard to kill something when you look into its eyes, you can’t help but see yourself in it. Its little feet were like filigree, but I didn’t care about the mouse. I came back to my notes on the memoir: to browning the beef, to focusing on that. It seemed anything, really anything could distract me from the work of sitting down and doing what I had been talking about or planning to do but out on Cougar Mountain Friday, I figured some of it out.

I really don’t like reading memoir. I don’t care about other people’s lives so much. I tried reading about Jacques Pepin’s and that was nice but I couldn’t finish it. I read the rock star memoirs but when I’d set those books down it all came back to me, why aren’t I doing something interesting enough to make a book about my life?

Probably the first, hardest thing about memoir is how much of it has to be true versus how much you change. There are rules about memoir I don’t want to learn or understand. The hardest thing about starting is with the names, all the real people from my life I’ve known and want to write about.Β All the people I’d talk about and piss off and all the people I wouldn’t talk about and piss off and the fact that not many would read it anyway and that would make me want to stop writing, so in some ways it was easier not to start. In every way, in fact. You could put it up high on a shelf and admire it from a distance but never get it down and touch it for fear it might break. In a way it was there, and in another way it wasn’t. Dreams were like that, easier to dream about.

This idea you have to wait for people to die before you can write about them. I was pretty sure I’d go first and maybe then they’d talk about me but probably not, and anything they’d have to say wouldn’t be as good as the way I’d say it because they’re not writers.

And then this thing, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it did it really fall,” there’s that too, with your life: if you make these rules for yourself where you identify with something so strongly that if you don’t do it you cease to be…there’s that. Did my story really happen if I didn’t tell it? And conversely, I could make anything “really happen” whether it did or not, I could make it up.

Dawn read something about writers not writing: that all these perceived obstacles to writing are actually Places To Hide and yes, I thought: I came back to that on the trail Friday, is the blogging thing really a place of no risk, that’s why I keep coming back?

There was a tree on its side going up the trail, at the beginning. It reminded me of the arborist we had out recently, the small tree that got uprooted by the weight of the wet snow in February: he said it doesn’t even know it’s on its side, it doesn’t care. I thought about that tree and how it kept blooming, knocked over like that, maybe it just doesn’t know or care how others see it, and that’s what makes it so strong. Maybe there was a theme in that for me and my book. That there’s some strength in that inner vision you have to hold onto and trust.

I wrote all the way up and down the mountain, mostly in my head, some on my phone, and when I got down I answered work emails and went home, ate and showered, drove to West Seattle to Anthony and Mike’s, stayed up late listening to records, passing the phone on Spotify, and Dawn and I went out for our anniversary and talked over wine at a restaurant, and she said maybe you should focus on writing it first and then worry about how you’re going to publish it.

Categories: Memoir, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

26 replies

  1. Two things … first, don’t break your blogging habit. Although I get it, I most certainly get it.
    Second, I have to drink beer when I cook. It’s a part of the thing. Which makes making breakfast a real problem since I’ve at least managed to avoid drinking beer before noon. So far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What is it about that noon rule? I know the times I’ve broken it it didn’t end well. It always morphs into a nap and shame. But it’s fun, browning sausages or onions in the morning and drinking beer. I have done that in Germany and tried to pass it off as a time zone difference thing.
      Thanks for the advice and encouragement Mark. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i loved the eyes and filigree feet on the mouse and the tree growing on its side, something about their survival instinct –


  3. You write so well. You should do that memoir. You could also write fiction that reads like memoir. Whatever you do, you are a story teller.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Have you read Knausgaard? I’m tempted to say something about how to read Knausgaard – but that is against my principles.


    • Ah, the “Faustian bargain”: I’ve considered that. He looks a real interesting fellow, thank you for the tip Joan. I’m intrigued! Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your writing is so beautifully done – Knausgaard sometimes just throws words on the page – or it looks like that – or he hasn’t got around to the paragraphing yet – I’m generally a stickler for editing my own writing – though we all know that typos and slips happen – but Knausgaard – I think he’s making a feature of it – given what you find out, later, about what he reads. His family – some of them – hated him for being so honest (about them) – oops! I didn’t mean to say all that…


      • I’m really thankful you connected me to him. Just reading about him made me interested. Though perhaps some of his appeal could be from the cultural attitude there about ‘autofiction,’ whereas what I read about the French, and us Americans, it’s less sensational maybe. Thank you Joan, this is good. And for the kind words and praise for my writing too. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Blogging didn’t used to be a place of no risk to me, but now it is. I still do it, but it’s starting to feel like a warmup writing exercise. If there is anything I’ve learned between hitting the writer’s conference and the reality of me back at home, in front of this computer, it is that Dawn is right. Do the writing, deal with everything else when it’s time. I have a business card with more credentials than the work behind it. That is some serious cart before the horse bullshit and I’ve started calling myself on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think Dawn’s right, but I also think your anxiety over what happens after is valid. I have that. I relate a lot to that tree on its side.

    Lately I’m seeing “the blogging thing” as more of a journal, since I don’t keep journals anymore. I can look back over the archives and see what I was thinking about at any particular time, dip in and read a few things and go, Yeah, that was interesting. But since other people are reading the journal entries you have to exercise a little style and keep your chops up.

    As for trees falling in the woods, it just occurred to me that most trees that fall have no one to hear them when they do, yet I see plenty of fallen trees. Maybe they were placed there like that. Or maybe they fell and some squirrels and lizards heard them fall. Or maybe …

    Sorry. It’s Monday.


    • Sometimes it’s nice to think that where you are is exactly where you should be. And yet, our attention roams…that happens to me and Dawn when we’re out walking in our neighborhood, and we dream of where we’ll go next, in our next house…when the one we have is of course perfect. So yes, like you I’ve enjoyed using the blog as I think they were intended to be from the get-go, an online ‘log.’ And it serves as a database of drafts and material, too. But I have that conflict of questioning its legitimacy too. I think I got the notion of ‘be mindful of what happens after you dream your dream’ from you, and your angst / disappointment with that. So thanks, man. THANKS. Ha, thanks for reading though. Happy Monday. Tuesday’s just as bad.


  7. There’s no shame in feeling compelled to drink beer when browning meat, but are you compelled to drink brown beer?

    If a tree has fallen on its side but continues to grow does it really not know, or is it screaming out in Entish, “help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most memoirs have significant edits/change to them. I’m reading an advanced copy of David Sedaris’ diaries, to be released next month. There’s no WAY he wrote this cleanly in the early 90’s. This has been stepped on.


  9. Excuse my language, but Knausgaard’s texts are postmodern as fuck – (oh, and I don’t mean the word ‘fuck’.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I liked how you explained it succinctly in the last para, put it down in clear words as if you were breaking down into actions a writer’s dilemma of musing well and long but losing it in amusing himself with acts of smaller consequence, or so it seems after all the musing is blurred.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m so glad I found your blog. This is exactly how I’m feeling. I’m currently writing fiction but feel compelled to write memoir. I want my blog to read like a journal or memoir but get stuck over what to share. Anyway, I appreciate this post. Thank you. Keep on writing. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy you found me too! Thanks Ashley, cool to connect over the writing/feeling thing. I’m just finishing 40 days of daily memoir posts wrapped around some themes, take a look at more recent posts if interested…and if you’re compelled to write memoir do it! Do what you enjoy and it will come through. Good luck, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

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