Reflections on a Memoir: Part II

Bryce was a writer.  A prolific, genre-crossing writer.  His writing career centered around his job at the Altamont Enterprise, but his writings included short stories, poems, and vignettes from his life, the latter largely a product of the memoir writing group I mentioned in Part I.  I was an English major with a concentration in writing with plans for a career in medical writing.  Only I found the medicine more interesting than the writing, enjoying my forays through the hospital’s hyperbaric chamber and SPECT imaging department far more exhilarating than sitting in front of my Mac in an office built for four. 

So, with a semester to go before graduating with a BA in Liberal Arts, I switched gears and focused on prerequisites for Physician Assistant programs.  I told myself I’d write later in life, after I’d experienced more.  Upon my undergraduate graduation, however, my Uncle Bryce saw the English major and sent books on the craft (Strunk and White and If You Want to Write).  Fine books, both of them, but they’ve seen quite a bit of shelf time in the intervening 19 years.

But no more.  While I started Bryce’s book to look for clues about my younger son, I also wanted to read the writing of a talented writer who encouraged me so many years ago.  And initially I was disappointed.  I found much of his writings for the memoir workshop (the first two-thirds of the book) wandering and unfocused.  I assume these weren’t meant to be polished writings (they were published a few years posthumously), so I let that go.  Bryce created vivid images of person and place, and his pain and loneliness along with his joys and triumphs are palpable through these descriptions.  The highlight, from a writer’s perspective, is Dead Man Writing, the compilation of essays by the same name he wrote for the Altamont Enterprise while he lived his last year of life with bladder cancer.  While the cancer took his life, his vitality and sense of living in the now emanates from these writings. 

As I posted at the start of the year, a stack of books about writing does not make a writer. The binding of  So You Want to Write remained unbroken until last week, although I’d read Bryce’s inscription inside the cover several times over the years.  Until recently, I didn’t identify myself with the word “writer”.  As that identity develops, the books on writing gain relevance and my feeling of being an imposter decrease.  Reading The Traveled Road brought me further along my path as a writer.  It wasn’t a perfect book (could one really exist?), but it told real stories about a real person, conveyed feeling and thoughts, and taught me something about life, his and life in general.  And isn’t that the point?

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One thought on “Reflections on a Memoir: Part II

  1. This connection you feel toward your uncle Bryce is poignant, and I’m sure you gain much personally by getting to know him better through his writings. Whether we become published/accomplished writers or not, it can be hoped that our own children and grandchildren (perhaps even neices and nephews) will have a similar experience reading our words!

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