Deconstruction and Reconstruction of My Memoir

Memoir Writing’s Toll.

Memoir writing is often a long and arduous journey. Sometimes it takes a toll on the writer in a variety of ways.

There is the debate over what family members will think or do. The writer questions the truth of what he/she is writing. This questioning brings into consideration just how much the truth may be altered. Use your own name or a pseudonym is another question. And after all this questioning, doubt takes up its place in the writer’s mind.

Self-doubt is an author’s worst enemy.

Self-doubt has a personality all its own. Its abilities can bring down a writer in an instant. Is my memoir good enough to be published? Should I self-publish or get an agent? Have I covered all the bases with regard to truth? What have I left undone? Perhaps I’ll just give up!

Quotation re self-doubt by Sylvia Plath. "The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
Via Positive Writer

A year or so ago I gave in to self-doubt.

I’ll admit it was a combination of things, both physical and mental, that caused my self-doubt. But it became so overpowering, as it can, I thought I had no choice but to stop working on my memoir.

I tidied up my manuscript into a beautiful bundle of pages and tied it with a blue ribbon. Then I set it aside where I couldn’t see it. I’ve not touched it since.

In recent months I’ve read some books, including memoirs, which have encouraged me. Some blog posts have also heightened my desire to move ahead. Included in these posts are:

 

I advise this when writing about family: Pay attention to details … journals, diaries, photographs, conversations. Don’t paint people in black and white, but offer portraits with insight, based on knowledge, real and authentic. Ask yourself: Would I want someone to tell my story any other way?

Susan G. Weidener, Women’s Writing Circle, blog post dated June 18, 2018, Fear and Writing About My Father: Memoir Lessons (emphasis by Susan G. Weidener)

Let Deconstruction Begin!

We’ve all watched old buildings come down. Sometimes the building is not so old but is demolished in the name of progress. Other times the destruction is caused by forces of nature–tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fire.

I remember the first implosion I watched on TV. It was an amazing sight to behold! A building falling into itself. Even better here are two buildings at the University of Nebraska imploding almost side-by-side:

Cather-Pound Residence Hall Implosion
University of Nebraska at Lincoln (2012)
Via YouTube

This image is a bit drastic in comparison to what I intend to do with my memoir manuscript. Yet, deconstruction of a piece of work that has taken years to write is somewhat nerve shattering.

Will I be able to bring it back together into a cohesive story? Or will I find myself on yet another wrong path? Pondering these kinds of thoughts make me nervous.

I am almost ready to start. A work table has been purchased and placed in the Studio. This is where I intend to sit and begin reading and cutting. Yes, cutting. With scissors in hand, I’ll snip what I want to move elsewhere and let it flutter to the tabletop where I’ll label it with its new location.

Here is Where Reconstruction Begins.

Once those snippets are labeled I’ll begin taping and moving them to their new location within the remaining manuscript. During my last reading, I recognized a missing link. Nothing like the Missing Link believed to be part of the Theory of Evolution.

My missing link may lead my readers to assume the worst about one of my characters, and this is not my intention. So, I need to bring that character into a whole person and not one divided by my storytelling. These words may not make much sense to you right now, but trust me they mean a great deal to me and my story.

Conclusion.

What I’ve learned from this phase of my writing is that allowing the manuscript to marinate is one of the most useful tools in a writer’s toolbox.

Another handy tool is allowing yourself time to read your manuscript from the perspective of your unknown reader. Here you’ll find yourself capable of finding construction issues, plot, and storyline errors, issues with character development, and other things that may confuse your readers.

Take your time before you rush to publish your book. It never hurts to give it another close going over with a large magnifying glass. Heed Anne Lamott’s words:

Quotation

Hot Summer Nights | A Day in the Life (Episode #9)

We’re having a heat wave!

Oregon is HOT in our neck of the woods. Usually, summer days aren’t filled with temperatures nearing 100 or humidity starting the day at 70% or more. We’re accustomed to average summer temps in the low to mid 80’s, low humidity, and nights cooling down into the 60s or even high 50s. 

Mornings now you can hear the sounds of neighbors doing what you’re doing–opening windows and doors to let the cool morning air in. At our place, in Meyers Woods, this will keep the house cool throughout the day with the help of shade from our old growth firs and cedars.

Many older homes in the area have no air conditioning. Oregonians are somewhat complacent thinking that global warming isn’t going to affect the Pacific NW. Best we think again, dear neighbors!

But global warming and current days are not my subject matter today. I want to talk about…

Hot Summer Weather

Back in the day, the 1950s.

There was no evidence of air conditioning in any of the homes on our block. None anywhere we knew about. But people fared the summer weather without a hitch.

I grew up in Nashville, TN. The south offers a hot summer for the most part. The humidity can often be as high as the temperature. Mosquitoes are everywhere.

Clothes Pins or Pegs
Pixabay | Ryan McGuire

Unlike Oregon and the NW, summer nights in Tennessee didn’t cool off much. But I didn’t mind. I counted lightning bugs and stars until Mama or Daddy called us at bedtime.

Monday was wash day at our house, and Mama laundered sheets and pillowcases. A favorite activity was handing her the clothespins, or some call them clothes pegs, for hanging the wash.

Going to bed with air-dried linens made summer nights a delight!

Hot Nights Meant Bedtime Delight.

Windows were open as far as they would go. Hopes were high for a slight breeze or a hefty draft blowing through.

I could hear Mama using the Coca-Cola bottle she used to dampen clothes for ironing. This signaled the preparation of cooling sheets, as she called them, for the long, hot night. 

Each sheet was dampened as much as she felt necessary to keep us cool enough to fall asleep. When she brought the sheet to you, Mama carefully laid it over you spreading it to its full size.

Now the hope for breezes was at its peak. And as soon as someone felt a breeze, the whole house knew–there was either a long “ahhhhhhhh,” or a giggle, or one big yawn.

It was time to fall asleep and dream dreams.

What memories do you have hot summer nights?

Perhaps there’s something you’d share with us in the comments below, or perhaps this is good fodder for a short writing piece you’ve been putting off. 

Either way, my hope is that it’s not so hot where you are that you can’t sleep! Sweet dreams!