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!
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:
- Kathy Pooler’s post Our Stories Endure: A Memoir Moment reminded me if I don’t share my story, who will. And if someone tries to share my story, it will no longer be just my story.
- Marian Beaman’s post Memoir Progress: Peaks and Valleys assured me I’m not alone in the struggle against the peaks and valleys encountered in this writing journey.
- Susan Weidener writes about the fear we encounter in memoir writing in her post Fear and Writing About My Father: Memoir Lessons. Susan’s words assured me my concerns could be dealt with:
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)
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.
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: