“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,
“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?
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.