Friday, January 1, 2010

Two thousand and what?

I was going to recap this past week of vacation at some point, but then I realized that I should also do a 2009-in-review post, and then people started going on about the end of the *decade* and now I am just utterly overwhelmed.

I've been reading other people's lovely 2000s retrospectives instead, happy that some people can do this right. A lot of them are fairly personal, even if they are on blogs focussed on reading or writing or whatever (my interests are pretty narrow in scope). Which only makes sense--ten years is a huge meaningful block in anyone's life, and it's hard not to get emotional thinking of what's been wrought in that time, even if a lot of good books got read in there, too.

Though I never particularly felt that the aughts had any kind of decadey tone, that might be because they were the first decade in which I was semi-functional in the world (there probably are people who are fully conscious agents in their own lives before they turn 21; to them I say, bravo). So to me the aughts are not just a decade where certain things happened--it's the decade when *everything* happened.

This was driven home to me last night when the party discussion turned to where we spent Y2K New Year's. I spent mine at the City of Hamilton's outdoor celebration, because the band featured wasHoneymoon Suite, which was a (semi-ironic) favourite band of mine and my friends. I was visiting my parents outside of Hamilton on break from my third year of university.

If present Rebecca could somehow go meet me in the past, my younger self would probably only say, "How did you get your hair like that?"

I had no idea then how my life would go, and no idea how I *wanted* it to go, so I really don't think I would have known how to ask a pertinent question. But I would have been really impressed with future self for getting my hair (mainly) under control.

And looking back, I still can't form a meaningful narrative looking at the decade as a whole. Having this blog, and doing some interviews and profiles when *Once* came out last year, really put this in perspective for me. I can make certain events and relationships seem to cohere into a logical arc by extracting them from the long silly series of events that is my life and putting them only in the context of each other.

But to me, and I think to most people in the process of living, there is no narrative--just the things that happened, and what we did about them. It's the act of writing (ah, this post has a point!) that creates a story, whether or not the events are true--the selection of what to leave in and what to omit, how to frame, what tone to take, whose point of view to honour. This blog in certain ways is the story of my life over the last 3 years, but it's highly biased since I do all the telling, and I leave most of what doesn't really pertain to reading and writing (usually) (for example, an edited version would include boring stuff like what I ate at every meal, dumb stuff like that time I got stuck in the back of the couch, and incriminating stuff like how I tried too hard to pet this cat that she went ballistic and tried to eat me).

I found a really interesting little section in the journal Ars Medica about how to write about real life:

"...[In reading fiction] we sometimes encounter unprocessed details...that have specific, charged meaning for the teller but are unclear to the reader. These pieces in many ways resemble journalling or therapeutic writing. The author is too close to the events or uses personal code and shorthand, which leave gaps. As a result, we are not fully invited into the experience. Stories of trauma and loss are often fragmented, because they remain so for the writer and have not yet been crafted through the personal and creative steps that render them coherent and universal.

"Writing personal narratives may indeed be healing, but to be literary there needs to be distance, and "observer's eye" that allows us to to see the full picture."

So that's what I lack, I think--the observer's eye that allows be to see my life from beyond my own headspace, to really think in terms of my own fictional self as living a story. And this is why I don't write much autobiographical fiction--I'm bad at it. I know the details and their import so I leave them out, I get stuck on a particular "truth" and thus can't make the story truly resonant with people other than myself.

The blog is an opportunity to try to craft mini-narratives that still sorta stick to the truth, but you might have noticed that I don't often do that--Rose-coloured consists much more of essay/opinion/rant-type writing, or else snatches of contextless dialogue, rather than actual beginning-middle-end type stories from my own life. Those are just too hard--how to find an "ending" to my anecdote when I'm still alive.

So I find it weird to be looking at my life in a ten-year chunk--no narrative seems available. 10 years ago I had a roommate, I lived in Montreal, I was writing a weird novella, and my favourite food was probably chocolate macaroons. Are those the salient details of me at that point? Who knows? I don't even know the salient details of my life now, and I certainly don't know how to take the relatively simple but to me wonderful, baffling, sad, exciting, and scary events of the last ten years and make it seem like I had a plan, an arc, or even a clue.

How does anyone ever write their autobiography?

And thus, to begin 2010, apparently this is a post about why I write fiction.

I hope your next 10 years, and mine, are wonderful and baffling.