Panorama of San Bernardino

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Same Old Story

I just saw a quote from James Joyce that inspired me (along with the James Joyce paper doll I found in San Diego that is now in my office).  I will paraphrase it for you.  Writers only have one story to tell and they, or should I say we, tell the same story over and over again.  Thus, as Joyce noted, writers are trapped by their own experience and whatever form we write our story in, i.e. memoir, fiction, or poetry, it is essentially the same story being retold over and over.

I know it is a truism to say that we are shaped by our life experiences, but in writing, this truism is similar to the plot in "Groundhog Day" in the sense that writers are obligated to repeat the same story over and over despite their best efforts to move on.  For example, Ulysses tells the story of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom which is, in essence, the story of Joyce's relationship with his wife Nora Barnacle (aka Molly Bloom).  

For most writers, this oft repeated story is one of our childhood experiences.  I know it is for me.  In some ways, I am still a young child sitting on the roof with my sisters watching the sunset to the sounds of my parents fighting below.  I wish I was past it.  I really do.  But perhaps, the art lies in reshaping my past, in writing it all down and in the process of memorializing it, conquering the beast of my past. 

Or maybe, the art lies in the honesty of speaking out and sharing that my life was not perfect, but flawed and at times, ugly.  There is nothing so beautiful to me as someone who just tells it like it is.  Without any sugercoat on it.

Sometimes, the art also lies in finding the beauty in the chaos.  Despite the fact that I had a somewhat tumultous childhood and young adulthood, there were many good times.  I had a mom and dad who worked hard and gave my sisters and I everything they could.  And, we had adventures.  Crazy adventures.  Adventure cannot be overrated.  It is the stuff memoirs are made of and if I am doomed to repeat my story so be it.  I have some pretty fucking fantastic stories if I do say so myself.

I wouldn't trade my life for an idyllic one.  My childhood turned me into a survivor, a hard worker, an empathizer, a progressive, and a lawyer fighting for those that society throws away.

And, most of all, my childhood made me a writer.

1 comment:

  1. I think about this too. I don't know if it's 100% true but if it is, so be it. I've devoured work by writers I love, even when I've recognized that they're telling the same stories and writing the same characters over and over again -- because those characters and stories speak to me in a way I really need to hear.