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

The Memoir Writer’s Hidden Nerve by Susan G. Weidener

Today my guest is Susan G. Weidener, author of A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story, her first novel based on a true story. In addition, Susan has written two memoirs, Again in a Heartbeat: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Dating Again and Morning at Wellington Square.
As part of her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour, Susan shares her thoughts on the memoir writer’s hidden nerve. Please join us in the comment section to share your own thoughts on this topic.

Welcome, Susan!

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Author Susan Weidener

All writers have “a hidden nerve,” a “secret chamber” which stirs their prose. For some, the hidden nerve is so deep, they can’t write about it – not yet.

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, what do we see?  A reflection? Who are we? Who are the people we write about? Is our honesty compromised in an attempt to “protect” them and/or family secrets and myths? Do we undermine our writing by trying to protect ourselves and others?

It’s easy to confess. Introspection takes a whole lot more courage. Sometimes we don’t even know what we want or need to confess. In A Portrait of Love and Honor, Ava asks Jay what drew him back to West Point year after year even after he kept experiencing pain and rejection. At first, he tells her it was always his “dream” to attain “those gold lieutenant bars.”

As he works with her on his memoir, he begins to realize that it goes much deeper . . . that there were spoken and unspoken messages and expectations by his strong-willed mother. Jay begins to understand that it was his mother’s “dream” to move beyond the immigrant experience and become part of the American success story. “I suppose if my mother could say her son graduated West Point then it would make up for her own disappointments,” Jay tells Ava. And if he dropped out of West Point, he ultimately disappointed and defeated her.

In my memoirs Again in a Heartbeat and Morning at Wellington Square, I write about a woman in white wedding gown who believed that good things come to good people – she believed life was something she could control  . . . until her illusion is shattered by illness and death. As I wrote my memoirs, I wrestled with my guilt and shame. Why had I not been a better wife to my husband at the end of his life? Why had I blamed him, not the disease for shattering my dreams of happily-ever-after?

In writing my memoir, I dropped the pretense that I was ‘perfect’ and tried to make peace with my own unique quirks and flaws . . . and in the process, forgive myself. I had been hard on John because I was losing my dreams and youth.  There were other revelations, too.  John was irreplaceable, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t do it all over again in a heartbeat.

The “hidden nerve” is what makes us tick as writers . . . it’s what makes us want to write our stories.  It’s what memoir writers wish to uncover. dividerAbout A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story

A Portrait of Love and Honor by Susan G. WeidenerNewly-divorced and on her own, 40-something Ava Stuart forges a new life. One day, at a signing in the local library for her novel, a tall, dark-haired man walks in and stands in the back of the room. Jay Scioli is a wanderer – a man who has said good-bye to innocence, the U. S. Army, and corporate America. His outlook on life having changed, his health shattered by illness, he writes a memoir. In his isolation, he searches for an editor to help him pick up the loose ends. Time may be running out. He is drawn to the striking and successful Ava. Facing one setback after another, their love embraces friendship, crisis, dignity, disillusionment. Their love story reflects a reason for living in the face of life’s unexpected events.

Based on a true story, A Portrait of Love and Honor takes the reader from the halls of the United States Military Academy at West Point during the Vietnam War to a moving love story between two people destined to meet.

Note: If you wish, you can read my review of A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story at this link.

Get to Know Susan G. Weidener:

Susan G. Weidener is a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has interviewed a host of interesting people from all walks of life, including Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Mary Pipher.  She left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based.  Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester Springs, PA.  Her website is:  www.susanweidener.com.

You can connect with Susan via:

https://twitter.com/Sweideheart
http://www.susanweidener.com/
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004G7AXQY
https://www.facebook.com/susan.weidener

dividerWhere You Can Purchase A Portrait of Love and Honor:

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Hope and Fear: Inseparable Emotions

Today I am visiting with Susan Weidener at her blog, Women’s Writing Circle. I do hope you will join us for a discussion of hope and fear and what makes them inseparable as emotions. Come on over!

“Hope and fear are inseparable. There is no hope
without fear, nor any fear without hope.”
~ François de La Rochefoucauld
(French memoirist, 1613-1680)

Hope and fear are as inseparable as dormancy and life in the plant kingdom.
Hope and fear are as inseparable as dormancy and life in the plant kingdom.

What strange companions these two emotions are. Hope presents all we see as positive, and fear just the opposite showing all we believe negative. And yet, they are inseparable.

As a child growing up, I knew fear. My mother disciplined using fear in the form of verbal and emotional abuses. One of my greatest anxieties arose from the thought I might displease her. I knew too well the result of her displeasure. Because I hoped to please her, I never gave up trying despite fearing the reward for possibly failing.

An excerpt from my memoir in progress provides an example: (You can read more here . . . )

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Wednesday, 9/11, I am guest posting at Madeline Sharples’ blog, Choices. I hope you’ll come and visit me there as I write on the topic, “Too Old to Write? Proof the Answer is No!”

Simplify

When I posted here on December 31, 2012, I spoke to the need to recover balance in my life and family, specifically seeking God’s guidance in what He has in store for me.  Since then, I’ve posted only once — a book review of Morning at Wellington Square by Susan Wiedener.
I have spent some small spaces of time in quiet reflection, dabbling in my writing projects, and expended huge amounts of time on failing laptops and computer equipment and getting those replaced or repaired.  In so doing, I have been given in those special quiet moments a word on which to reflect in 2013:

simplify

By placing the word “simplify” at the forefront of everything I seek to accomplish, I’m hopeful that when I feel overwhelmed and uncertain about the direction I should take I’ll simplify.  By leaving something behind, perhaps undone for the time being, and allowing myself to find those quiet moments again.

But I must admit I’ve missed the blogging and writing community.  I need to write — it is where I find myself most at home and thriving in my own creative world.  My husband has his creative niche — art and design — and mine is the need to use language, words, communication to bring my world alive.

So, I’m easing back in to blogging and writing and will begin to be more active as time and life allow.  After all, simplify is my mantra for now.  I can make it as simple as I want.