The Final Mile of Writing a Memoir
There are a lot of emotions tangled up in writing your life story. I have come to learn that it’s not MY story, but a tapestry of many people’s stories all woven together.
It’s been cathartic writing through the struggles Jim and I faced in our marriage. Wading through the nitty-gritty of my mother’s history and her generation helped me soften a strained relationship. Friends who came to visit me while I walked New York each helped me through a difficult chapter of my life. But until now, the raw and very personal words I’ve written have been locked away safely in the hands of my writing coach and my editor.
Now that I start trying to shop my story–making it public–I question my right to implicate those near and dear to me. One sentence, even one adjective can color a reader’s impression of my sister or my son. Have I chosen my words carefully enough? Will baring my innermost thoughts on paper embarrass my children? What right do I have sharing a myopic view of my mother, being that she is no longer here to offer her point of view. Will I be ostracized in the halls of my beloved church because I challenge what’s being taught in Christian classrooms? Will the pride of my Southern heritage come through when I share stories with those with preconceived notions of the South? My relationships with my family and friends are a hell of a lot more important to me than selling a book.
This has been a tough week for me as I prepared to travel to New York to present my manuscript to an agent. I’ve had a real come-to-Jesus with myself. Writing this book has helped me heal so isn’t that enough? Should I just tuck it in a footlocker for my children to read upon my death as Francesca did in my favorite film, Bridges of Madison County?
Or should I try to meet the goal I set in the beginning, to push just one woman to take thirty days out of the rat race of her life—time away to assess, to recalibrate, and to refuel herself. If I could accomplish that, I would feel justified in breaking the rule by which I was raised: “No need to air our dirty laundry.”
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” The attribution of this quote to Hemingway has been debated for years, according to The Hemingway Society