Memoir, Writing

Reflections On Completing My Memoir

reflections

Just over a year ago, I wrote this post on my former blog a couple of weeks after completing my first memoir. I thought it’d be fun to share it here as it has inspired me as I begin writing the second half of my story:

• • •

Jan. 5, 2015

I finished the book.

It’s so weird and awesome to say that. I finished it. It’s taken me several years (6.5 to be exact). I started writing it just before turning fourteen. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long if I didn’t need to learn so much, if I had already had within me all the experience and skill that years of writing brings, if life hadn’t gotten in the way multiple times, and if I had had a fully-functioning computer from the start to it’s finish. (As it happens, I’m still bumming off of my sister’s fully-functioning laptop, ha di ha.) It’s something I have worked towards for so long. How can it be finished?! Gahh.

And it’s only ever been real in my head. That’s the weird part. Friends have drifted in and out of our lives for as long as I can remember and I’ve never spoken about my book, not unless asked (my father would make a great agent: he tells everybody and anybody!). Even speaking about it amongst the family is something I’ve shied away from: the subject (and all the memories it brings with it) is a sure way to shut down their faces and bring that certain look of silent torment to their eyes. I have avoided it at all costs. Did I have their full support and the constant assertion that if I ever needed help it was mine? Absolutely. But writing this book was still lonely. While life went on and we taught ourselves to forget, I went back. Over and over again. I went back while we struggled to make ends meet with no income, living off coupons and our friends’ charity. I went back while we welcomed two more babies into the family. I went back while the owner of our old house brought us to court and marshals stalked our gate and the electricity got turned off (…and stayed off). I went back while we moved into the apartment of a friend and hunkered down for three years of cramped living while looking for a new home. It became a silent world within my head inhabited only by me, something I couldn’t share with anyone else… no one but God.

He was patient with me. Whenever I would hit a rough patch and stumble into a memory I wasn’t prepared to face, I would pull a Jonah and run to the land where procrastination thrives: the Internet. I would remain there for several weeks and then come crawling back, stricken with guilt. I was plagued with a sense of inferiority: how could I write a book? Having grown up an avid reader, books were something I was only too familiar with… I read anything I could get my hands on: Austen, Dickens, Alcott, Bronte. As a teenager, my horizons broadened: E.M. Forster, John Steinbeck, Salman Rushdie, Irving Stone. My standards were high; my expectations even higher. I didn’t want to just tell our story – I wanted to write something epic, something revolutionary, something life-changing. Something that would climb its way into its reader’s heart and stay there. I wrote and rewrote the manuscript multiple times. It was never good enough; it could always be better. I wrestled with my sense of duty: why was I doing this? Was there a point to all this private torture? Would it do any good?

Towards the end, the real thing that kept me going was digging deep into the nitty-gritty details of what Matthew [my brother] suffered and realizing all over again the absolute anguish that his last five months of life contained. Don’t I owe it to him, to tell his story? Isn’t it the least I could do? To make sure that people don’t forget, to make sure that his name and his existence doesn’t get swallowed up by time?

This year is going to bring so much change, I can feel it already. It’s daunting, but I’m praying that God gives me strength to face it…

Last year did bring a lot of change, but it wasn’t the kind of change I expected. I learned so much though, and I’m praying that God gives me the means to go forward with self-publishing my memoir this year.

I hope this post inspired you… there’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that comes after completing this kind of project, especially one that lasted as long as writing my memoir did. God willing the second doesn’t take as long – ha!

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