I have finally started to write again. It has been quite some time since I have put pen to paper and as I begin this process again, I am now cognizant of why. Writing memoir is hard to do. Of course, this could depend on your topic, but for me it is extraordinarily painful. I have often thought it might be easier to write my life into fiction because I could create what I want without worrying whether I was sticking to the truth. But that lead me down another path. What is truth? Is truth what I remember even if it didn’t happen the way I remember it? Do I try to solicit others to verify how I remember things from my past or do I write my truth? Ultimately it is my truth that I have to live with. It is my truth that has formed who I am. If I get others’ input and incorporate their memories into my own does that become dishonest? I have found that the core of a memory is most often the same from person to person (for those who admit the event has occurred) but it is the details surrounding that memory that often differ so drastically.
At first I was adamant that I would not ask for input from my family members as I wrote my memoir. I wanted to write directly from my memories without them being tainted by someone else’s perception. But it has become clear that I need more information, more details to flesh out my stories, to make them real. My memory is severely limited when it comes to my childhood. It has been the biggest hurtle to overcome when it comes to my writing. I could not write an in-depth memoir about my childhood right now because the memories are just not there. They are sporadic, fleeting, flickers of scenes from an incomplete film. Yet everyone wants to know about your childhood. What led you to do the things you did, to end up the way you did? We want details, details, details…Ugh!
I have spent nearly a year trying to figure out how to structure my memoir. Do I focus on a specific time period? Do I try to write everything about my life so far? Do I move chronologically? Do I just create a collection of essays? Do I write up everything, toss the pages in the air, and order them the way they fall? This dilemma has kept me paralyzed and unable to write. It was while I was reading The Writer Magazine’s August 2010 issue that a little voice said: “Find something common.” I took a few moments to search for commonality and found that many stories I want to share do have a particular theme between them. I needed a focus, a common theme, before I could begin and now I have it.
This afternoon I sat with a fresh spiral notebook, my favorite pen, and some quiet time. I just started writing. I was broadsided by the amount of emotional trauma that is dredged up as I write. Now I understand my reluctance. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and did not reemerge from the memory I was lost in until an hour later. The only sense of reality was my need to eat – a sure sign that I am under stress. I wasn’t hungry, but I needed the comfort of food to make the bad feelings go away. Food is the only addiction I have left since kicking all my other ones six years ago and as I have been building myself up to start writing again, I have been eating uncontrollably. I noticed the incessant desire to eat over the past few days, but did not put that together with my fear of writing again until today. Amazing how the body and mind work, isn’t it?
I have a plan now and a structure for my memoir. It will require all new material as what I have written before does not meet the criteria for what I am creating. I have decided to ask for input from my siblings and to try and get photos and anything else that will help to bring the foggy edges of my memory some clarity. Something else I learned while reading Stephen King’s article in The Writer Mag was that I am not giving my inner eye enough time to develop the scenes of my life. Maybe it is the pain that keeps me from lingering too long in one place. Sometimes I can’t help but look away – quickly. But if I am going to expose the memories that have been rotting my brain and my body for all these years, I am going to have to linger longer, with eyes wide open, and take in the scenery, garbage and all.