writing your memoir


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I’ve been working on the blog this past week. Mostly going back and reformatting the posts I transplanted from my original blog(s) and tagging them appropriately. It’s tedious work, but fascinating to read my long ago thoughts on this and that.

Lost in 2007 right now, which covers Rob and I from courtship to early months of marriage. I thought I’d written more about us really than what I have found. There are a lot of things I didn’t share, which surprises me because I don’t consider myself the discreet sort.

Another thing that’s come up in preparing the holy writing platform is my “fan” page on Facebook. I felt like such a geek setting one up and it’s very grade seven to ask – but if you do read my blog and are on FB, could you “like” me? Or follow me on Twitter?

Ugh, there –  it’s said. Feel like I need to wash the grovel off now.

I’m also looking for blog topic post ideas. I am not quite ready to rant about U.S. politics. Perhaps I won’t ever be. I shake me head and just as I finish someone else down there commits some new verbal atrocity in the name of capturing the 2012 GOP nom.

Long ago, I asked readers to “ask me” about things they wanted to know. I think the project stemmed from a meme. So here’s your opportunity to ask me again, keeping in mind that there are actually places I won’t go in terms of personal revelation or outing family/friends. Leave a comment here or over on my “fan” page.

Sigh, fan page sounds so pretentious.

 


If I were going to write a memoir, that’s what I’d call it and then subtitle it with – Lather, Rinse and Repeat.

I bring this up for two reasons.

The first is that my blog reader is crammed with Eat, Pray, Love crap as the Julia Roberts adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is opening or has opened.

The reviews are mostly “meh”. No surprise. The novel itself isn’t much. One review pronounced it too “talk-y” as in the character constantly describes how she feels and her observations about every freaking thing. As if a movie about a writer documenting her journey to enlightenment should be somehow more visual than word-packed.

My favorite review so far was written by Helena Andrews at The Root. It took up the theme of Gilbert’s book and named it “white girl problems”. Couldn’t have found a better genre for it.

White girl problems are essentially the non-issues the pale and the privileged focus on in the absence of actual adversity.

When I attempted to read Eat, Pray, Love, Will was just going into hospice. A book by a woman bemoaning her serial monogamy – that horrid pretty girl issue of having always been someone’s girlfriend or wife – while I was losing the only man I’d ever had a long-term relationship with in my entire 41 years didn’t go over well.

Sucks to be her, I mentally eye-rolled as I put the book on a shelf never to be cracked open again until I decided that some of her syrupy half-wit might be useful when I was writing comps for my education masters about six months later. I knew Gilbert was a poser but my professor didn’t.

Andrews though draws this awesome comparison between “white girl problems” lit/memoirs and a line from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. There is a scene where the Mad Hatter observes that in the real world, Alice has lost her “muchness”.

“You were much more … muchier.”

White girls in the real world then are searching for their muchness.

Gilbert’s muchness turned out to be the exact thing she thought was her problem – love and being in a relationship – because her journey ends when she meets the man she is now married to.

So much for issues.

Which brings me to my second reason, and it is related to the loss of muchness. My memoir. The one that’s pretty much written and is screaming to be edited and shopped.

I can’t.

I know. I have been saying that for a while now, but I am sure of the reason behind my reluctance. And it goes beyond my belief that books about overcoming tragedy by being plucky, witty and boot-strappy are so common place that they’ve become clichés onto themselves.

Rob followed a link to a widow blog and the author was describing her experiences at a Blogher style convention for widows complete with keynote speakers, author panels and how-to workshops. A couple of her encounters with people who’d mined literature from their experiences and turned them into books and/or workshops had left her feeling removed and as though she was possibly doing widowhood and grieving wrong.

And then I knew why I haven’t finished my memoir.

I can’t give people their muchness back. I could write a memoir, package it and sell it out of workshops and conventions, but a person’s muchness comes from within not from without.

I felt/still feel sometimes as though I didn’t do widowhood right. The way I felt, and the things I needed to do for myself, were often so out of step with other widows, books on grieving and even memoirs of widows that I wondered how I could be so far out in the weeds when everyone else seemed to know where the paved road was.

I can’t do that to someone else. Lead them to believe – even inadvertently – that I know the way.

Especially since I really don’t believe there is a process to grief or a one size fits all way to navigate the first year or that the whole honoring of someone’s memory should even be numbered in the top twenty of a person’s priority list.

The blogger mentioned how pleased some of the authors seemed with themselves, their lives and this opportunity to basically headline a conference. And I can totally understand her and them.

It’s amazing when people read what you’ve written and tell you it meant something to them. It would be easy to let that dominate and forget that the subject matter makes you more responsible to your readers than that of a fiction writer.

If what I write inspires someone, wow, but if it makes someone feel inadequate, wrong, or persecuted by the fates? Ouch. It would bother me the same way that the kid in my 3rd hour English class who’d given up because he’d never gotten a grade above a D used to bother me. Even though that wasn’t really my fault, I had to fix it. It was my job.

Memoirists open their lives for reasons that are far different from that of a fiction writer. It’s more than telling a good story. My story and opinions as a blueprint for grieving would be a responsibility like the one I took on as a teacher. And it would mean never fully closing the door. The pain would always have access of sorts to my now. A liberty that it doesn’t deserve and that I don’t owe it.

Besides, I’ve written my story – here and in a hundred different places all over the webosphere via comments and guest posts.

Purge, Pack and Move would be an awesome title though.  Sigh.


I am slogging away this week and until the 30th on my memoir which I am going to try to get published, but I can’t promise will ever see the light of day in the wider world. Immersed as I am, I will try to update you dear readers once a week as to my word count and progress.

Today, I would like to know how the first sentence (or paragraph, but please not the whole chapter) of your own memoir might read. Remember that your life has high and low points and has periods that are too boring for most people to be interested in, so it’s best to focus on time periods rather than whole lives. A life from beginning to present/end point are called “biographies” and as my husband reminded me – they are reserved for people who actually count in the historical record of the planet.

Therefore, pick a time period and begin. Here or at home with a link back.