Sunday, December 9, 2012

Of Kathleen Norris and Inspirations/Dreams of All Sorts

Last night, we had dinner with friends.  After dinner, talk turned to our creative projects and our hopes for the future.

The friends come from a social science background, and in some ways, a more rigorous academic background.  I got through my Ph.D. program without having to do any math, for example.  They can tell great stories about compiling statistics before there were such helpful computer programs.

I know more about the current state of publishing and writing than they do--I'm not sure that any of us can predict the future of academic publishing.  Academic publishing interests them more than it interests me, although every so often, I dabble in it.  Of course, the academic publishing that I do seems easier to me--no pesky statistics to compile--just me and the literature I want to analyze.

We talked a bit about blogging, but it's clear to me that I'm the only one who blogs and reads blogs, and thus the only one who thinks blogging matters.  I talked about all the raw material I've collected in my blogs and how I might transform it into a memoir.

One friend was dismissive.  He said, "Forget your blogs.  That writing is done, and it doesn't matter.  Just you and your thoughts about whatever was happening that day.  Who cares?  The important question is what do you have to say to people reading now?"

In a way, he's right.  In a way, he's not, because he hasn't read my blog and doesn't really know what I'm doing here.

We talked about memoir, which is hard since I'm the only one reading memoirs.  I tried to explain what I hope to do with my memoir:  "I hope to be the Kathleen Norris of my generation."

Then I had to explain who Kathleen Norris is and what her books are like.  I'm not sure I convinced anyone to go to her work, but it was good to clarify what I'm trying to do.  Of course, it's easier with friends who have read Norris.

My friends are not real open to the idea of spirituality or Christianity; they remind me of Christopher Hitchens in their objections.  But we had a good discussion of living one's values in the current work environment.

My friend who was dismissive of blogs said, "That's the first idea I've heard that's really made me excited tonight.  But take spirituality out of it.  Instead, maybe do something with values in the workplace, the values of the workplace."

I want to record his idea, because it gives me a way to conceptualize how my memoir might be important even to non-spiritual, non-religious people.  I suspect we're all working in an environment that's not exactly in sync with our values, at least not all the time.  We all wrestle with what to do when the expectations of our work environment clash with other expectations which are important to us.

We also talked about promotion, both of the shameless self-promotion variety and others.   We talked about ways to promote our work that wouldn't feel like bragging.  I had a moment of insight, when we talked about the differences in promoting different kinds of work.  If I can think of my memoir as a tool that will help others to live better, richer, fuller lives, it will be easier for me to tell others about it.  I want to make sure I remember this technique.  It's an idea which isn't new, of course.  But it felt like an epiphany last night.

My goal between now and Epiphany (Jan. 6)--to go through the blog posts that I've assembled into one document.  Those are the blog posts that I thought might be useful in the memoir.  It's time to begin the sifting and winnowing process so that I can start the revising process.  Also, I need to see what I have so I can plot out the new writing that I will need to do.  By this time next year, I will have a finished manuscript that will be making its way into the world--that's my ultimate goal.

And my ultimate wish?  I want a bidding war when publishers see my manuscript.  I want a book tour that leads to lots of readers discovering my book as a resource that will improve their lives and workplaces.  I want new opportunities, ones that I can barely discern right now, to open because of my work.  I have a vision of retreats, of new educational settings, of recurring columns in magazines, of clamor for my next work.

I'm tempted to erase that paragraph that I just wrote, but I will leave it.  I worry that it makes me sound too grandiose, too full of myself.  But I also think it's important to articulate these wishes, to send them out into the universe.  I do not want a memoir that disappears into the ether. 

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