My Memoir Doesn’t Work And Why I’m Not Devastated About It
If right now you are telling yourself it’s all been done before, who cares if you write the novel or paint the painting or start the business, and anyway, who do you think you are to be a maker, a creator, a writer?
If those kind of stories are WHY you are not making what you want to make, then I need to tell you something:
I have spent the last 4 years working on a memoir that I have discovered does NOT work.
I thought it did. Or maybe, more accurately, I hoped it worked.
I worked with a book coach for a couple of years who loved where I got. Her last comments to me before we finished working together were, “I tried to find something to be critical about and I couldn’t find anything.”
She also said, “I am only one reader.”
With help from a book coach friend who read the entire 500 pages (how the heck did that happen?!?), I can now see the book I wanted to write is not there. Am I gutted? Filled with regret? Yes and no. Mostly NO.
My YES I’m bummed comes from seeing how I made some rookie mistakes. I thought I knew better! But it’s one thing to teach others and another thing to do it yourself. Yes because I spent a ton of time making scenes work that don’t belong in the book. Yes because I wanted to be a few months from finishing and handing it over to my agent.
All that is true and my NO I don’t regret putting all this time in the book is so much stronger. So much more vibrant and real.
That truly amazes me.
I haven’t gone into despair.
I haven’t gone into the once very familiar place of “I suck because my writing isn’t working.”
I haven’t eaten endless cookies. I didn’t even need to have a glass of wine to blot out the disappointment.
What I mainly feel is light and peaceful.
That’s because I have learned and changed and grown so damn MUCH from writing this book and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Writing these 500 pages (!!) has been more powerful than any personal work I have done.
I am a different person because I took on the shaping of my story. I am a different person because I wrestled with and made some sense of the suffering and ugliness. I am a different person because I stretched my self as a writer to choose to make the dross into meaning. Into story.
We become the person who can write the story we want to write by writing it. And even if the story doesn’t come out beautifully shaped and ready for readers, even so, we carry the boons of the quest back for ourselves and our community.
BUT if I had listened to the voice that said,”Why bother?” and “This is too personal” and “You are such an ugly person you can’t write that scene” NONE of that learning, growing and changing would have happened. Zilch.
I’d still be half-hiding from Bob. I’d still be hating my mom. I’d still be doubting the worth of my work. I’d still be beating myself up for having been cavalier about my divorce. I’d still be mired in resignation and woulda coulda shoulda.
That end result that you want – the best-seller list, the solo show, the successful business offer – would be amazing when and if it comes. But if you refuse to create until you are sure that what you are making is perfect, everybody will love it and it will make all your dreams come sparkling radiantly true, you are putting your life, your heart and your growth as an artist in the damp closet under the stairs, turning off the light, locking the door and throwing away the key.
I had hoped to be somewhere other than I am right now with my book. In the end I’m fine with that because what would be far sadder would be to never have transformed myself through story.
To have stayed hiding in the closet under the stairs.
P.S. Next week I will share what I’ve learned from going south with the book so you might benefit from my experience and where I might go with the project next.