Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Mixed Memoir

I’m trying my hand at a memoir. It’s not as simple as it sounds on the surface: find something interesting in your life and write about it.
That’s the basis for it. It’s up to me to make it interesting, compelling, and worth the readers’ investment of time and money. It has to go beyond feeding my ego to serving the greater good. If nothing else I must fool myself into believing that notion.

We can whine about the events of our lives. Each of us has his or her share of glory and misery. It’s not what happens to us in life; it’s what we do with it.
Our choice is simple. We can stay back and be miserable sucking the life and joy from our friends and family as they console and cajole us or mine our life experiences for growth and change. I’ve known many people who choose the former. I understand that’s where they are in their growth, and they are learning something, but I prefer to avoid these energy vampires. They are bad for me.

That said, we all need a hug now and again and some assurance that we are loved and accepted. Memoirists dredge up a great deal of refuse when they mine their lives. We need our share of hugs and reassurance, and then some.

As I write more I remember more. One life scene leads to something else and I find myself slapping my forehead and shouting, “Yes. Yes. That’s right.”
I also have to step back from some of the memories and ask if it really needs to be written. So far the more painful the memory the more it must be put down in writing. Generally if they hurt they are important. They’ll be most interesting to readers, will do me the most good to set down in print, and are the truth of my life.
What would be the point of writing a memoir if I try to organize it as though I grew up in the Happy Fuzzy Bunny Universe? It wouldn’t sell and it if did no reader would believe it.

I never wanted to write about growing up with a mentally unstable, violent sibling, but it is the truth. I wanted only to write about the good odd things like seeing a clown drawn in grease pencil on the barn wall. It’s not really there, but I remember watching the lovely being draw it, and I remember clearly seeing it as I’d walk in the barn. It is also the truth.

The only way for me is to write about the violence and the oddness together. It can be believed or not as suits a reader’s comfort level.

As one of my guides told me told me during a meditation a few months ago, “Write the truth or not at all.”


the Bag Lady said...

The Bag Lady must have a very strange brain, or had a very strange life, because all of her memories are of the Happy Fuzzy Bunny variety. She certainly has had her share of bad patches in her life (as you well know, having witnessed one or two!), but her memory of those times is definitely fuzzy. The idea of sitting down and deliberately remembering those times makes the Bag Lady feel sick to her stomach, so she commends your bravery!

Leah J.Utas said...

Why thank you, dfBag Lady. I hated straying out of Happy Fuzzy Bunny Universe. Stay in it. Stay in it.

Reb said...

Good for you to have the courage to face the unpleasant times along with the odd times and happy fuzzy bunny times. Of course, I just ignore the unhappy times until they come up and bite me in the ass.

Leah J.Utas said...

Oh, they'll bite me in the ass anyway, Reb. But this way I have some control over when they do.

Michael said...

Well, I guess that is surely the way to go with a memoir. I've thought about it myself, many times, but I know I really don't want to write non-fiction--even if it's about my own life. I've heard it said that sci-fi is about the hardest thing there is to write. I'd have to disagree: non-fiction is more difficult for me! Good luck, Leah!

Crabby McSlacker said...

I've been lucky too, to have a lot more Happy Fuzzy Bunny times than the other kinds. But often great art comes from folks who grew up with fewer HFB moments. Small compensation, I suspect.

Ritergal said...

You write "It’s up to me to make it interesting, compelling, and worth the readers’ investment of time and money. It has to go beyond feeding my ego to serving the greater good."

I love and share your lofty ideals! Best wishes for this worthy project.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Leah,

You have been mulling this over for so long and in so many ways, I am sure that you will get the correct combination of how it should all be presented.


Leah J.Utas said...

Michael - thank you. I love science fiction, but don't think I could ever write it.

It is some compensation, Crabby. I still have to do something with it.

Hello Ritergal, thanks for stopping by and thanks for the kind words.

Leah J.Utas said...

dfTerrie - I appreciate your support.

Polly Kahl said...

I'm really looking forward to reading it when it hits the best seller lists, Leah. I find that the more the writer shares, the more meaningful it is to me as a reader, because the more there is for me to attach to emotionally. I recommend taking risks in writing. It can always be edited out later.

Leah J.Utas said...

Polly - Good to see you here.
Thanks for your support and kind words.
I agree about taking risks in writing, difficult as it is.