I was visiting with a writing friend recently who is writing memoir. She let her boyfriend read an excerpt of her work, and his response was, “it’s kind of… personal, isn’t it?”
That’s what (personal) memoir is. Not all memoir is personal. Sometimes an author writes memoir about someone else’s life, or an event in someone else’s life. But when the author is writing about her own life, it’s personal.
So is the personal essay.
No one says this better than Jennifer Bowen Hicks, in her guest post over at Brevity:
“Transparency of Thought in the Essay.”
A brief excerpt:
“When a writer voices the agitations of her will through words, I feel my own blood moving inside my veins, transfused and transformed by the essay’s greatest potential gift: full access to another human’s thinking, feeling, core—that place where our truest feelings and agitations live. In writing, is there other point?”
It’s not just that we like confessional writing, although that can be a part of it. It’s that we crave intimacy with other human beings, and what could be more intimate than knowing their thoughts, their feelings, their soul?