Notes on the Craft
One must realize that the use of 2nd person is a tool for distancing. Furthermore, via the act of writing, the writer is often released from the peak emotions expressed in the essay. Therefore, the confessional in 2nd person form is the ultimate separator; it is the writer’s last-ditch effort to push and shove her own truths away from herself—a rare occasion since very little is sacred for the live-and-learn nonfiction writer.
It’s worth noting that hyperbole comes easily in late-night, first-draft, quick-media forms in particular. As a tool for instant portrayal and relatability, hyperbole is difficult to surpass. As a mechanism for the delivery of truth, it comes close only by way of abstraction and abstraction is, by definition, imprecise.
One of my all-time favorite, contemporary American female nonfiction writers is Alexandra Fuller. In Scribbling the Cat, she doesn’t often reflect directly on her own process as a writer because her primary task is to tell her story. But she does say at one point that she writes to bring things into coherence. Nothing has ever felt more true to me than that sentiment. I remember where I was sitting when I read it, and my vision of myself as a writer before reading that sentiment and after reading it is keenly different.
You never know how much you don’t know. What it means to be a writer changes and deepens for me quite frequently. The experience is always expanding. It is not enough to say it is a life fully lived. It is not enough to say it is all in the act of putting words on the page. It is only the tip of the iceberg to say it is a balance between the two. So much of it has to do with the act of letting go, which first begins as a conscious exercise and then becomes a mode of existence that feels like home. And we’re always just trying to get home, aren’t we?
For every famous writer there are at least ten undiscovered writers who are better. Success in the writing world is 40% talent, 40% discipline, and 20% good fortune.
It is fruitless to believe the to put something into words is to be definitive. Writing should be viewed through the lens of possibility. The end of an essay is always the beginning of something else.