I admire writers who embark on writing journeys of exploration, writers who probe the depths of self and soul and society, who mine their memories and share their pain and triumph, and who offer insights into the meaning of life.
When I finish reading a work by a writer like that, I feel like I’ve been on a journey to a land both strange and familiar. I’m exhausted, yet energized. I know that concepts and characters, situations and turns of phrase will stay with me for years and color my thoughts for the rest of my days.
But I’m not that kind of writer.
When I was young, I dreamed that I would be. But it turned out that deep down, as the saying goes, I’m pretty shallow. When you look up “lofty thinkers” you won’t find a picture of me. My earliest reactions and interactions with books are proof of that.
When my mother read the story of Goldilocks and those bears, I asked if Goldi put maple syrup or brown sugar on that porridge. Tales of life on the prairie made me grateful for the nearby general store and its stock of candy bars. I felt sorry for Robinson Crusoe because he didn’t have a refrigerator to keep his cola cold. Heck, he didn’t even have cola. Pirate stories made me shiver—not so much because these were bloodthirsty types, but because they ate moldy biscuits.
When I grew older and tackled books on my own, I loved the adventures of Nancy Drew. But when Nancy was tied up and locked in a closet, I never wondered if she spent the dark hours considering the fleeting nature of life and what doors might open after death. No, I wondered how she could manage to pass the time without obsessing about food or needing to get to a bathroom.
And in high school when we were presented with Walden, I wondered why Henry David Thoreau planted beans. I hated beans. Why couldn’t he plant peas or corn or yellow squash?
Back then I was more concerned with the physical than the metaphysical. And not much has changed.
I have never discovered any great truths about myself while writing. I have discovered several not-so-great truths:
- If I sit too long my butt gets numb.
- If I’m stuck on a plot point I get the munchies.
- If I’m in the middle of a tense scene, my bladder demands attention.
- If I fail to save my work regularly, the computer will crash.
Most of my journeys are simply short hikes to the kitchen or that room with all the plumbing, with an occasional foray to retrieve the address book and find the number for the geek who rescues my crashed files.
I’m not even sure I want to discover anything new about myself. The stuff I already know is mundane, trivial, typical, or should be filed under “Why the heck did I do that?” But I doubt even chapters dealing with those incidents would hold anyone’s interest long unless the only other choice of reading matter was the Congressional Record.
So, if you were with me at that party or on that camping trip or along for that week in Florida, here’s something you might consider good news—I swear I’ll never write a memoir.
Carolyn J. Rose is the author of several novels, including Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, No Substitute for Murder, and No Substitute for Money. She penned a young-adult fantasy, Drum Warrior, and two cozy mysteries, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor, with her husband, Mike Nettleton, author of The Shotgun Kiss.
She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and not cooking. Visit her website www.deadlyduomysteries.com