The journey of writing my memoirs while trying to stay sane is like trying to walk through a mine field; you never know when something is going to trigger an explosion only this is an explosion of emotion. It isn't an easy thing revisiting the past especially when it is filled with trauma and drama at every turn. Natalie Goldberg in her book Old Friend From Far Away says that you have to approach writing a memoir sideways, which seems to be the only way I can approach it.
If I think I am working on my memoirs my body tenses up, my stomach feels queasy and I think of a million other things that need to be done right now-immediately. It would be funny if it wasn't so darn inconvenient. So I do it a piece at a time. Writing bits of my past from writing prompts and the lovely books that help me mine the fields of my shadows without falling into the deep chasms that seem to just be waiting to suck me in.
This morning I woke up at 5:45 a.m. to write with my friend Tui at Mental Mosaic It is easier to write knowing someone is out there writing with you. It was for me. I couldn't avoid the page. I couldn't tell myself that there was something more important for me to do. I only had to write or type as the case may be, and fill the page one word at a time.
I share this journey with you because I know it is hard. Maybe by sharing my journey it will feel a little less lonely and crazy for you while you are trudging through your memories and putting them on the page. I want you to know that if you are writing your memoirs you are not alone. Not only are there many of us out here, but we are all pushing through the fear on a daily basis right along with you. To get to know each other I am creating a Twitter hashtag #MemoirMadness for us to use when we need to chat with someone going through the same thing; to be able to reach out and commiserate, laugh, and maybe even cry together. It doesn't have to be as difficult as doing it completely alone. We can avoid the madness together and get our stories written. I am going to. I know you can too.
Are you writing a memoir? How did you come to realize you wanted to put your story in print? How do you get around or through the fear?
I hope you had a successful write this morning. I am not ready for my long memoir yet (not any of them, because there are at least three different memoirs to be written), but I have hit those emotional explosions with just short memoir pieces for my blog. The advice in "The Memoir Project" by Marion Roach-Smith did set my mind at ease with some of the emotional hurdles, so I wanted to pass it along to you.
She reminds us that memoirs are not about us, they are about something else and we (and our memories) are merely the illustrations of that. Perhaps your memoir is about transformation, rebirth, grief, hope, or some other theme. She encourages us to remain focused on "What is this about?" throughout our writing.
Here's one fantastic analogy she gave: She said a memoir is like Tarot Cards. When someone gets their Cards read there is an entire deck of cards, but only a certain number of them are pulled out for the reading - the ones that matter for that reading. She suggests that we remember this with our memoirs - we may have an entire deck of stories and details and emotions that belong to our life story, but should only pull the ones that are relevant to our current memoir.
I don't know if this is helpful for you, but I know that when I am writing in a memoir format and I am blind-sided by some emotional part of my past, I start making all types of connections between different phases of my life and choices made or not made (I'm a victim of that whole "writing is great therapy" thing), but to have the overarching focusing question of "What is THIS [memoir] about?" can really reign me in, keep me focused and keep me writing. Those connections may be relevant to me, and they may help me grow, but they're not relevant to my reader.
Keep writing! You guys inspire me!!
I finally ordered her book this morning and I am looking forward to reading it. I appreciate you sharing what you love about the book and how it helps you. (Even though you aren't writing a memoir yet.)Delete
This helps a lot, thank you!
Good luck with the writing. Memoirs scare the heck out of me! I know that I should write my story, but I feel like if I write it down then journey is over. Will there be a sequel? I have so much life left in me. I like what Stephen Fry did. He split his up over time periods and that makes sense. He has done a lot of awesome and reckless things in his life. It is really interesting character study in that way.ReplyDelete
Thank you Susan, they are actually pretty scary to me to but I really want to write it so I am trudging along. I do have several I am going to do. None of mine or just going to be a whole life time. Memoir is more about moments in life; my moments that I learned huge lessons that I hope will help others. :DDelete