I am a private person. That may seem odd for someone halfway through a resolution to blog daily in 2016. I am sure you can cull some details about me from these pages. I don’t try to write impersonally. On the contrary, I think good writing has a personal style. But there is a difference between a personal style and electronic exhibitionism.
William Zinsser, who I have written about before, had a great personal style. After reading several of his books, however, there are still huge chunks of his life I know nothing about. That’s fine since I don’t read his work to learn about him as a total person. I read Zinsser because I respect him as a writer and I respect what he has to say about writing. He is a good role model for having a private life and a personal style.
One of my daughters has disrupted my normal, private persona, however. She gave me a blank book with writing prompts on each page. Not just your ordinary “describe the room you’re sitting in” stuff, either. No, these are all personal—all about me. What I think, remember, and feel. She says she wants a record of me to share with my grandchildren someday.
I am honored she thinks a future generation will have interest in what I thought about. I’m also impressed at her ability to give me a gift that will result in hours of work for me and end up being for her in the end. (She’s a wily one, she is.) I am also a bit nervous.
I am an introvert by temperament. Not just a little bit; I lean very heavily to that end of the spectrum on personality tests. I am also a thinker. Again, not just a little bit. I have had good friends nickname me “Spock” on occasion. So to open up these pages and see questions about my childhood and adolescence is a bit unnerving. These aren’t things I think about regularly in the first place. To try to address these questions in a honest, concise way suitable for future generations is a writing challenge I have not attempted before.
I think the project worth my unease, though. William Zinsser wrote often about memoir as a genre. “One of the saddest sentences I know is ‘I wish I had asked my mother about that,'” was his opening to How to Write a Memoir. That resonates with me a bit. I have no living grandparents and my mother died a few years ago. I have few living links to my past, but on my side of the family, I am quickly becoming the sole curator of the past.
I am beginning to think about how to address these questions. It will not be a short project; there are a few hundred pages worth. It will be a good exercise in writing with a defined space and an assigned question. More than that, I hope it will provide a window into the past for my kids and grandkids. It will be up to them if they decide to look through it, but at least I will have provided it.