Wednesday, February 17, 2016

True Story

Have you ever thought about writing a book about your own life? Most people have. Thought about it, that is. And they would do it - if they could just tell the story of their life to someone who would write it all down and go off and create a book from it! Sitting down to write is not usually how most of us want to spend whatever free time we can squeak out of our busy lives. It’s hard work, and very, very time consuming.

It starts out as fun. Most people begin with the title, and then stop dead in their tracks. There’s something about a title that is satisfying enough to quell the urge to tell the world what happened to you. My cousin wanted to write a book about his experience of social isolation he felt in an alien environment, and he was going to call it, Among Many There was One. That, basically, was the story he wanted to tell. As far as I know, he never wrote another word of it.

I have some favorite titles that tell the whole story. Marry Later, Marry Smarter is one of them, and another is Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Those aren’t memoirs, though. Finding a title for your own life is more difficult. I was going to call my memoir, Not Crazy, but my friends were unanimously opposed, said it was too negative. I considered it positive, to be “not crazy!” 

The “working title” (I kept thinking of it as Not Crazy) drives the writing; the title that is finally applied usually comes at the end of the writing, when the book is ready to be printed and bound. The title my groupies agreed on was Someone to Talk To, which I still wish I hadn’t used, since it doesn’t really tell what the book is about.

The writing was difficult . . . onerous, invasive, taking over my life, for well over a year. I became ill from the stress. I became obsessed with the fear that I might die before I finished it. 

Am I glad I did it? Very much! Will I write a sequel? Probably not. I don’t want to work that hard again.

If it’s so strenuous, why does anyone write a memoir?

A writer named Sally Miller summed it up this way: “Our stories of overcoming adversity and hardship . . . . are monuments of hope to those around us. . . . . When we share them, we extend permission for others to say, ‘Yes, me, too!’”

That’s why I wrote mine. And it’s why I love reading memoirs, which I devour with great gratitude to those other writers who were also driven to share their experience for the possible benefit of readers. 

Memoirs inspire me.

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