I ask myself daily: Why am I writing this? Is anyone really reading it? Is this what I should be writing? Am I over sharing? Who cares? What will I make of all this? And then I keep writing, for some strange reason. I write because I feel compelled to. I open my eyes and a story starts to unravel in my head.
I’ve been writing a memoir for years – here and there, via journal scribblings, poems, post-it note phrases, letters, stories – and for the past few years, this blog.
I set out to write a literary memoir about the impact of absent fathers on African American women (but then my posts about men turned out to be light-hearted and funny). I intended have the first chapter revolve around my father – a Vietnam War veteran who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. That may still be the first chapter.
Here, I write a lot about dating and the single life (what men and women want, what I love about men, dating younger men, etc.). In merging my book idea and my blog content, I could ask these questions: Do my dating and relationship patterns tie in to my father’s absence? (He and my mother separated when I was twelve. Thirteen years passed before I saw him again.) How can I shape what I’ve lived, and what I’ve seen?
I’m reading Beth Kephart’s book Handling the Truth: on the writing of memoir. In it, she says:
“Real memoirists, literary memoirists, don’t justify behaviors, decisions, moods… Real memoirists open themselves to self-discovery and, in the process, make themselves vulnerable – not just to the world but also to themselves.”
Memoirists look back. (This is the work I’ve been avoiding.)
What do my letters, poems, journal entries, stories, rants, and blog posts mean? What have I learned? What do I believe? What kind of voice do I have? How do my personal stories transcend me? Can I impact other people’s lives by telling them?
I’m looking back.
Decidedly, I’ll leave you with a note I wrote six years ago about my first boyfriend. He meant the world to me. I met him when I was thirteen.
I’m writing a memoir.