“At that instant when language seems to match experience, some rift is healed, some rupture momentarily salved in what Hart Crane called, ‘the silken transmemberment of song.’” Mark Doty, The Art of Description: World into Word.
In Buddhist practice we challenge our solipsistic states. We open up to our experiences and encounters with others with an appreciation that our experiences are not all about “me.” In writing for the local paper these past couple years, I learned another layer of removing the “I” as a way to deepen the reader’s experience. In journalism, I learned (thank you Matt) that there should be no sense of the author within the article. The piece after all is about someone or something else. When I included myself in the piece, the piece became subjective rather than objective, and not about the subject. This removing became a discipline, this removing of the self from my stories, just like in my Buddhist practice of becoming less self-centered.
When, as a Writing Sherpa I consult on autobiographical pieces and on my client’s memoirs, I help them remove themselves for similar reasons. When we write, “I felt,” and, “I saw, I think, I remember, I don’t remember,” these references get in the readers way. They are redundant because the reader knows this is your view, your perspective. So, getting into the scene or narrative without these personal references strengthens your readers connection to your story. The reader can be in the experience, which is want you want for your readers.
Instead of I felt sad, describe sensations in your body and your emotional state.
Instead of I saw . . . show and describe what you saw.
Instead of I thought . . . show and describe the experience in a way that invites the reader to have similar thoughts. Draw on metaphors and similes. Give the reader some details around certain objects or observations in the scene.
Instead of I don’t remember . . . well, leave that one out entirely. Mention of what you don’t remember doesn’t build up your story, it’s a distraction from the story and may illicit distrust in your reader.
You are of course the main character in memoir. So, you are likely to use the “I” as you write your story. Practice removing all the references to the I that are not necessary to the narrative or scene. A worthwhile discipline on and off the page.
“It sounds like a simple thing, to (write) what you see. But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes, and it immediately becomes clear that all we see is slippery, nuanced, elusive.” Mark Doty, The Art of Description: World into Word.
Upcoming Events include the 31st Annual Writers’ Institute, March 26-29, 2020 where I will be offering a Master’s Class on Soulful Writing; a Winter Yoga and Writing Retreat with Molly Chanson, January 10th -12th, and in late Spring, 2020 the Free Library on Wheels launch, along with the launch of my latest book. (I’m a woman in search of a small trailer that can be converted into a free library on wheels).