A Life Examined – On Memoir Writing

Image by Anna from flickr via Wikipedia

Image by Anna from flickr via Wikipedia

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

“From the ages of 8-18, me and my family moved around a lot. Mostly we would just stretch, but occasionally one of us would actually get up to go to the fridge.”
~ Jarod Kintz

 

This past weekend, unexpectedly, I was holed up in bed recovering from a nasty infection. I’d planned a million things for my weekend, but ended up doing nothing much except thinking and reading.

I’m revising my memoir right now. It’s my One Big Thing for 2016 – to have it completed and submitted to an agent or publishing house.

I remember when I began this wretched tome. How hard can it be, I said to myself. Writing about yourself has to be easier than writing fiction. You already have the story line and all you need to do is put words on the page.

I thought I could knock it over in three months.

Be warned, my friends. That is delusional thinking. This is my third year of effort, on the back of a lifetime of diaries and scribblings and, more recently, blog posts. I have come to discover that memoir means agony. It means the constant overturning of stones under which you’d preferred not to look. It means stripping your own skin – at turns with a blunt butter knife or a cheese grater. It means scrubbing back the tidy stories we tell ourselves in order to come to a deeper truth.

This is my fifth draft, and finally I feel that I am getting somewhere.  I believe I am writing now with a voice closer to my own (rather than a story voice – in the way that some people have a phone voice), and distilling experiences into clean and beautiful elixirs or poisons, depending on the circumstances.

Sounds awful doesn’t it?

And yet…

Through the process of writing this memoir I have come to see my life more clearly and to know myself more deeply. I have crashed through limited thinking and found grace and compassion for myself and others. I have excised meanness and victim-thinking and blame from my pages and from my mind. I’ve healed old hurts. I’ve found me. I’ve learned to love me, flaws and all. I’ve learned to love others in ways I’d given up on as impossible.

I hope, one day soon, to be able to share my story with you. More importantly, I hope to encourage any of you seeking to use part of your own life for writing and self-examination. Memoir is soul work. Our own story, examined, is a great teacher. Through sharing our stories we connect, one to another.

Image from pinterest

Image from pinterest

 

9 thoughts on “A Life Examined – On Memoir Writing

  1. Right now I am “writing” a part of my life story through paintings…a project called 52 Divas. They reflect my thoughts, challenges, desires and dreams. You can also discover things about yourself by painting yourself and the thoughts and feelings behind it. I originally thought I would paint a Diva a week for a year and realized that what I wanted to express had to be done on a larger scale. I decided to stay with the number 52 as it still represents a cycle but it will not be completed in a year and when I reach 52 Divas, that part of my story will be told.

  2. There are many people looking forward to reading your memoir 🙂

    ” I have come to discover that memoir means agony. It means the constant overturning of stones under which you’d preferred not to look ……… It means scrubbing back the tidy stories we tell ourselves in order to come to a deeper truth” – I think some of us working with your ME Planner this year have been given a small glimpse of what your memoir process involves.

    But it’s all good because we have a clearer idea of who we are and where we are headed. Thanks for the encouragement Nicole. Happy editing. xx

  3. It sounds like you’re making good progress and learning much about yourself along the way which is wonderful. Good for you. And I hope you’re feeling better now.

  4. Sounds like panning for gold; you discard a lot of superfluous rock and soil till you are left with what you are looking for. All the effort will be worth it. Sorry to hear you have not been well. xx

  5. Funnily enough!!!, I was just thinking about this as I was woaling with Jimbo our dog. Looking at submitting an expression of interest to speak at a Rural Women’s Conference and mulling over topics. It came to me that using my life story as a way of sharing how our wounds hold our gifts and that facing them, loving them, integrating them truly helps you move from victim to cocreator. Much love from Echo Hills XX Nikki 🙂

  6. Hi Nicole – sorry that you are feeling a bit more unwell at the moment – how frustrating!!
    The cards this week however – seem to be talking of divine right timing – maybe you are meant to be in bed this week so you can give your memoir some deeper attention. This memoir may be your souls work – aboriginal aunties and all. Some things demand your bigger attention, some things demand to be birthed – it sounds like this is one of those cases.
    I hope you feel a bit better soon – enjoy those cups of tea.
    Much love – Sue Girl

  7. I look forward to reading your memoir. I’ve only done small bits of memoir writing. I feel you are so right, that it takes time to find the right path. But I trust your story will unfold beautifully now.

  8. It really does take time to write a memoir. It’s definitely not a microwave process. Letting it marinate before you begin cooking is a big part of the process but it’s the process where we learn about ourselves.

  9. I’m late here. Behind is the story of my life. Hmmm, good title. I saved this post to read later and it’s very later. 🙁 This one paragraph really stood out for me. “Through the process of writing this memoir I have come to see my life more clearly and to know myself more deeply. I have crashed through limited thinking and found grace and compassion for myself and others. I have excised meanness and victim-thinking and blame from my pages and from my mind. I’ve healed old hurts. I’ve found me. I’ve learned to love me, flaws and all. I’ve learned to love others in ways I’d given up on as impossible.” This resonated for me. I’d better get busy. I may not have 3 years left. 🙂 Getting quite old. I do still want to write my memoir and have been working on it. I took a lot away from this post. Thanks.

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