I’ve been planning a memoir. Sometimes mentally. Sometimes in free writing. Sometimes in a scene here or there.
I’ve also been feeling skeptical about how to approach a number of things.
A lot of people have hurt me. But more importantly, I have hurt a lot of people. Talking about both in a public setting can do more harm to both parties involved, as well as extending situations to include many that weren’t.
However, I do believe in the power of truth and the need for me to tell it, both as a personal process of the transformation of the material of my life and also that by sharing that process and the resulting work many that have experiences similarly in the dark may find something they need and a way through.
Some of it is a question of motivation. Am I unburdening myself to relieve my own guilt? Am I truly examining my part in situations and doing my best to take responsibility and be accountable? What does that mean in the context of publishing? Do I change names? It seems like most if not all identities would be thinly veiled at best. I’ve thought of doing something more fictionalized, which has its appeals and challenges, but is its own form of distorted lens that violates the truths I seek to present with a gentle and direct hand.
I reread Stephen King’s On Writing last week, and in it he talks about the process of writing first drafts with both the physical and metaphorical door closed. That to receive feedback during this period is to rob ourselves of the process of incubation at our most vulnerable.
This struck something in me. As I’ve continued the daily practice of outward facing public writing, I’ve developed a deepening respect for its impact on my life. The focus on process as product. It’s gentle coaxing of my work out of the darkness. The generous and sometimes surprising feedback from others that often highlights how little I know.
Yet I’m unsure of the place of daily publishing within the crafting of larger works, especially those works that deal with highly sensitive topics and the excavation and examination of large traumatic relics that I had sincerely hoped to keep buried.
Am I balking against my faith in the community that has shown me nothing but kindness and generosity? I just can’t imagine writing about some or my worst moments and then waiting to see the comments. I’ve not sure I want comments about those. I speak those experiences from my darkest parts to yours, and may we understand each other within and across that space. My trauma is not to be hearted and given words we all know are inadequate, as kind as they may be.
I think there is something sacred in the closed door. Not to keep us hidden, but to protect our soft bellies as we roll over onto our backs and expose ourselves. King suggests that after you finish your first draft (and do that straight through, 2000 words a day, in the morning, only leaving the office for necessities until you finish) then it’s time to open the door. To first put the thing in a drawer and take a full 8 weeks off until your become enough of a stranger to your own work to be able to “kill your darlings,” and then to edit with the door open and send the full manuscript to 4-8 people you trust for feedback.
I think perhaps as I edit I may share scenes in my daily practice. But then the purpose will be different. I will no longer be on my back, no longer mid process of prying myself open. The conversation can be about the work, us relating over it, not me seeking to fill the space produced by the incredible sucking void left exposed through the processing of my past with the presence of whoever is willing to stand witness.
In seeking to create work that matters we come back to the question, who’s it for? In the writing, it’s for me. Later, it’s for you. Until then, my door is closed.