Writing Memoir on Social Media

I’m doing something in the room and The Boy walks in stealthily from behind me and suddenly there is a shower of bubbles in the air and lots of childish laughter. I turn my face and I see a host of bubbles floating up and up and up towards the light, their shiny surfaces catching the light and turning them into iridescent rainbow hues. It’s hard to tell how each bubble will float away, where it will stick and when it will burst.  But together they transform the room.

Actually I’m not just sitting here doing something. I’m writing yet another blog post. It isn’t unusual at all, while I’m writing, for a childish face to peek in and insist on typing a word or two or close a window or want to check out a blinking light below the touchpad. But bubbles? They are new.

The bubbles floating around me make me think of a lot of writing I’ve been doing lately. Light, beautiful, polished, iridescent and ephemeral.

What really has been the end goal of these pieces? To live for a bit, to catch the light, to stick in someone’s mind for a moment and then to disappear? To float directionless, to dazzle and to die?

There’s other kinds of writing I do too—heavier, academic writing with more substance as opposed to these blog posts, tweets and updates I’ve been doing lately. The other kind of writing seems more anchored in logic and research, aimed to prove a point and to last a long time until someone comes to extend my work or to burst my bubble.

It is at that word substance that my mind sticks as I trace the movements of The Boy as he changes his tactics from surprising me from behind with his shower of bubbles to blowing single large ones out of the wire loop, letting them float for a bit and then making them sit on his loop again so each bubble looks like a huge glass ball at the end of a stick for a few moments before inevitably bursting again.

I watch him as he tries over and over and over again to make each bubble live as long as it can. He positions his eye such that he can look at me though the bubble marveling at the distorted view of my face. I am amazed at his perseverance at mastering such a pointless task, the end goal of which is nothing but an out-of-proportion eye, a nose or a cheek seen for a moment.

Yet he carries on and I realize that the task is not easy. It is a delicate challenge to blow through the loop just right so the bubble doesn’t burst prematurely, to blow just enough so it can form properly and then let it go. If one’s timing isn’t right, if one is too forceful or too tentative, one ends up bursting one’s bubble.

And so it is, I realize, with my style. My pieces on social media lately have been short, well-rounded, light, beautiful, somewhat iridescent but I worry about substance. I worry too that I cannot control who will see it, how it will be shared, in whose mind it will stick and how it will be used. It will last a few moments and then it will surely drift to die no matter how much I persevere in the making of it otherwise.

It is then that I start to ponder with some uneasiness a piece I read by Dani Shapiro this week about writing memoir in the age of social media in The New Yorker. Shapiro talks about how we’re increasingly confusing the “small, sorry details” of our lives that we post on social media, things that provide immediate gratification, unpolished stories not grounded enough in “the chaos of our own history” for the work of memoir itself. In this context she quotes Adrienne Rich to make her point about artistic creation. “It is always what is under pressure in us, especially under pressure of concealment—that explodes in poetry” and this pressure does not get a chance to build up because it is released prematurely via social media before it can transform to art.

Not that I am presumptuous enough to say I’ve been writing bits of memoir here but I must admit I’ve been worried about revealing some before concealing some in my writings on online platforms, yes.  “One of literary memoir’s greatest satisfactions—both for writer and reader—is the slow, deliberate making of a story, of making sense, out of randomness and pain” says Shapiro. In other words, you have to wait before you put it out there and I haven’t.

So then I begin to wonder: Is my bubble-making on social media making any sense? Should I have waited for delayed gratification letting the pressure build until it burst so I would have made a story out of whatever this is before letting it out into the world?  Should I have waited for critical distance?

It is then that I go back to the words of a favourite poet for help. He says that poetry is the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” but also confuses readers by saying it is “emotion recollected in tranquility” leading to a general opportunity amongst my college professors to assign hard essays for us in my day on how he reconciles the two. But I don’t want to drift off here like my bubbles.

After all, Shapiro quotes Emerson saying abiding gratification is about “finding the universal thread that connects us to the rest of humanity.” In my book, that’s what social media is. Why can’t a new generation find new ways of telling stories by concealing and revealing at the same time forging its own form to tell its own stories in its own way? What if that new form embraces the immediacy and ephemerality of social media?

The point is, should I continue to let The Boy make his own bubbles? Or should he go back to his lessons?

I let The Boy continue for a bit even though a bubble or two threatened to come stick on my keyboard because it becomes clearer by the minute that he has yet to learn an important lesson that he doesn’t seem to have figured out yet. That no matter how hard he tries, each and every bubble will inevitably burst in the end no matter how beautiful they are or how much he might try to control their destiny.

It is a lesson I cannot help him with but one he has to learn himself by making his bubbles in all the ways he possibly can.

But then I realize that I have an important lesson to learn from him too. It is that there can be more boyish pleasure in bursting the bubbles you’ve made with great pain and effort than in preserving them for a lifetime.

♣♣♣

And now, some unabashed self-promotion. Please like me on my Facebook page because, well, there’s stuff that I can do on Facebook that I can’t do here on the blog.

97 thoughts on “Writing Memoir on Social Media”

  1. “Why can’t a new generation find new ways of telling stories by concealing and revealing at the same time forging its own form to tell its own stories in its own way? ” This Q all by itself has my mind all a-buzz — very interested in what you are doing here. So very meaty!!! (Substance: yum. And I do believe it’s what pretty much everyone wants in the end.) And yet… and yet… the right direction to go with The Boy? Why is the answer not perfectly obvious? I think the one way at first, but then … I’m not so sure. Will be sure to reread this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post – I read Dani’s essay too, and it provided much food for thought. Next month I’m signed up to take a workshop on “flash memoir” – don’t you love it? I think it will help my blogging, which is mostly memoir & essay. Congrats on your FP, and thanks for your thoughts.

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  3. Sincere. That’s what I like best about this. But also, when you say ‘substance’ in your posts, I don’t believe it has anything to do with how Heavy or Light the article is. It’s more of what state of mind the reader is in at that point and what perspective he views if from. I mean, simple, guileless thoughts that occur while writing might mean just too much to someone who is stuck at crossroads for a similarly based issue.
    I loved how beautifully you have created the image of the boy and how the bubbles are his prime focus at this infinitely small part of his life. Classy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant! Loved this read, and agree that every generation should redefine itself – goodness knows we do that with music. Time to burst some of my own bubbles and have some fun! Cheers.

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  5. So very well written! I have been lately forcing myself off of social media Its too much distraction for my easily distracted brain. I agree with your well expressed thought that it’s easy to be fooled into interacting, but only on the surface, which is never fully formed thought. Congratulations on being acknowledged for this great peice of writing!

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  6. Well this is just straight up some f*ckin art. I just read this right before I went to sleep because it was the first thing that came up on my reader feed, and I expected the redundant, same blah blah “i guess im figuring it out” crap that so many peeps are filling up the world with (in both their real lives and their virtual ones…). I was wrong and I’m glad because it’s exactly what I needed. Tommorow morning, I’ll be going over lyrics for my bands third full length album so I can be prepped on how I’m going to sing them on Monday in studio….and in all honesty writing for this album has been difficult for me because I didnt know if i have come to the point where ive just givin to “attempting to create bubbles” even though I’m not sure if anyone will care enough to see them floating around through the air…and of course I reminded myself that “yes it does matter, as long as you remember what you’re doing it for…and just like remembering that there is such an equally awesome counterpart to creating ” bubbles” aka. The pleasure of Poppin ’em….the air became suddenly clear. Thank you for your post. It reminded me to go forth with all that I have…otherwise it won’t be an honest pure expression of our art (songs…lol).. 🙂 Gratsi mille once again

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    1. Hello! Thanks for your effusiveness. I’m glad my bubble floated up to your world as yours did to mine. All the best with your lyrics. I love your comment because it reads so very spontaneous.

      In the end, we’re all creating bubbles. We *are* all bubbles. We’ll all surely pop off one day!

      I feel compelled to quote Oscar Wilde in this context: “All art is quite useless.” And his defense of the same in a handwritten letter (what else:)) to his fan in 1890 (the letter is here: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/01/art-is-useless-because.html)

      16, TITE STREET,
      CHELSEA. S.W.

      My dear Sir

      Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

      A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.

      Truly yours,

      Oscar Wilde

      On second thoughts though, perhaps my piece was helpful as yours will surely be since it helped you clear your head. To bubbles then!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Dude, Thanks for replying and including the O. Wilde lol. He was silly man… The letter is fun too, full of that effusiveness my comments have I suppose. Wait…aaah nooo: This means I’m a silly man as well (greeaat/arg)… Mimosa bubbles all around/Have a great weekend 🙂 …

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          1. Lol i use “dude” universally/unisexually.. (It’s my shortened version of my “applicable to everything” term “duderino”.…. Sorry if it bugs ya duder! Hope all is well for ya!)

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  7. Beautifully written. I find that I use social media blogging to get the byproduct of my novel and short stories writing out in the open. They are usually observations about life or something rendered from the main focus on the work I plan to publish. I loved the vision and metaphor of the bubble.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m probably getting part of this wrong, but I believe that Picasso said that he never worried about whether a painting was a masterpiece, or whether it had lasting value. He said that was the concern of the critics and art historians, and his business was to just keep painting.

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  9. I really love this post. I think for two reason. As a sculptor I was obsessed with clear spheres, collected bulbs and retorts and created bubbles, both solid and ephemeral. The second reason is your beautiful description of The Boy’s concentration and experimentation. Unlike bubbles, just saying stuff on the internet, doesn’t mean it is gone or used up. It’s merely thoughts aloud, they can come round again in another context.

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    1. Thanks. As a sculptor, the form that you had to provide your abstract ideas had to be unambiguously concrete. With this piece too, I found the bubbles to be a good metaphor for writing on social media and The Boy’s play as the writer’s experimentations using new forms that social media has given us access too. Having said that, The Boy was really playing around with bubbles providing an opportunity for my idea to find its perfect concrete form.

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  10. Your polished “bubbles” are always inspiring. I think social media has a place for both. I have my “work” in an unpublished blog that I share with a few, but mostly I use it so that I don’t lose it if my computer crashes. I like the break of my regular blog for lighter stuff – mostly, although it has morphed during the two years I’ve done it. Certain bloggers have affected my blogging greatly, and now, I would say that my writing is for them as much as for me. I love the readers. 🙂 Sorry, for some reason I can’t post via WP. 🙂

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