Vivian Gornick believes that you cannot teach people how to express themselves in a dramatic way or how to find structure for a memoir, but that you can teach them how to read and how to judge a piece of writing. Which of course translates into judging their own writing as well, and with hope, making it more expressive and finding structure for it.
“What is this all about?” she asks holding up a memoir manuscript a student is working on. When the student replies, “It’s about this family….” , Gornick says, “No, no. What is it about?”
What is it that makes a piece of writing larger than its immediate story? What is the inner purpose, what connects this story to something larger than the family being written about? What is the compelling reason for people to read this memoir? Why are you writing it?
These are the questions we have to ask ourselves over and over as we write.
“Writing enters into us when it gives us information about ourselves that we are in need of at the time we are reading.” – Vivian Gornick