On Writing: Theme

When it comes to my lofty goal of publishing a collection of essays, I have two role models: Anne Lamott and Donald Miller. Lamott was the catalyst, and Miller’s Blue Like Jazz proved the idea wasn’t just a fluke.

Reading Lamott’s Traveling Mercies was a huge epiphany for me – it being a memoir, of sorts, written as a series of essays on her journey of faith. Part way through the book, as I realized what was happening on the pages in front of me, the lightening bolt hit and I went, “I can TOTALLY do this!”

I’m a very literal person, and I think the idea of writing about my life always meant to me that I started with birth, or my childhood, then proceeded to chronologically unravel all the events that were significant to me, and topped them all off with a ‘the end’ and an epilogue. All very boring, now that I think about it.

Linear is not always interesting.

Pulp Fiction was interesting because the story line went beginning-middle-beginning. Memento was interesting because it took place in a backwards sequence. LOST is interesting because flashback is intertwined with present, and one cannot understand the present without interpreting the flashback.

But now another problem presents itself to me, and I wonder what will be the catalyst for pushing me through this road block: now that I have embraced the essay style, I am working through the theme. What is it? What is my point?

I know I’ve written about this struggle before, and I thought something would come to me if I just wrote. I figured if I just penned the memories and the personal transformations, that I would have another epiphany and it would all come together. But the unknown Big Picture has me in a holding pattern. How much research should I put into this? Should I shoot from the hip, or read all my old journals? Am I taking myself too seriously? I tend to over-think and forget to just DO it.

Another problem is also my lack of time. I am very grateful for the three hours on Tuesdays that I have to write, but it is simply not enough time to devote to a writing project of such large scale – not when such a writing project involves huge personal introspection. Or when I have other writing interests that bring me much more instant gratification, such as blogging, and liturgy pieces for my church. These can be produced quickly and without intense concentration.

I would put the whole thing on hold if it wasn’t eating away at me so much. I think about it all the time. Perhaps this is all part of the process – the chewing, the contemplation.

One thought on “On Writing: Theme”

  1. Yes, yes! That’s what I think it is: part of the process. I’m sitting here stumped in my own writing process, avoiding the hard work of putting one more word on a page by surfing blogs. Thank you for helping me feel not alone.

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