Memoir Writing. Narcissistic or a Gift?

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Featured in Vibrant Nation

“Why do you feel compelled to tell everyone your story?” a friend asked after reading my memoir-in-progress posts.

I was unsure if she thought me narcissistic. And when I do finish my story, readers will discover that I’m on the other end of narcissism. So I didn’t know if I should take offense or not.

On the other hand, her question forced me to perform some dot connecting. As a young girl who bounced from the good life, to the bad life, to get-the-hell-out-of-my-way-life, I often swore to myself, “I shoulda said…” Then one day I said my thoughts after a verbal slander.

When I grew up, my said became a weekly newspaper column. Women stopped me in the grocery store with comments like, “Thank you for writing that piece about your divorce. I thought I was the only one who couldn’t ever say divorce until I went to therapy” or; “I really liked your column last week because I, too, sometimes go into my room and cry after the children have gone to bed. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.”

Twenty years later I rediscovered those columns. They shocked me. I laughed. I cried, and sometimes cringed. They made me realize their value—to me, possibly to my children, and hopefully to my grandchildren and those beyond.

Oh, but what a miserable road to take. And I do ask myself why I’m writing this thing called a memoir. I’m as far from celebrity as I am from wearing tight skinny jeans and high heels. I’m as middle of the road as the dotted white line that directs traffic on a country highway. I’m no master of the spirit, the domestic, or the genre. I’m simply possessed by the need to communicate.

Each one of us has a story worth telling. Each one of us possess gems of wisdom and experience.

“Do you keep a journal?” I’ve been asked.

Are you kidding? That requires discipline! Pulese. Don’t ask.

On the other hand, my brain awakens with the silence of the dawn. My fingers crave the keyboard and my inner voice screams for release while all the other voices (e-mail, telephone, texts, social media) sleep. And then the glaring light of the laptop dares me to begin the first line of the next post…”Today, on my 64th birthday, I proved that this California Girl declined failure, destitution, alcoholism, or even drug addiction.  STDs never had a chance, despite the whispered predictions to my fate. My daughters didn’t run the back alleys, nor land a pregnancy at 13–as some foresaw. And I didn’t crash on the street, reduced to pushing a battered shopping cart toting my worldly goods.”

There! I said it!

So, for me, this memoir project is a little bit of revenge to those who did doubt me; it’s a quest to dig inside of my heart and remove the pain of loss; it’s a moment to seize the joy of personal accomplishments; it’s a means to honor who I am and who I intend to become. It’s also a vehicle that sets the scene for my way of thinking.

Will it publish? Who knows. Will it ever finish? Yes. I’ve written and rewritten the entire story. The current rewrite tool is a chain saw for dead wood removal (AKA unnecessary words and tales), and to further sculpt the vision.

Are you writing your story? Do you think about writing your story? Does it scare you? Does it intimidate you? I say, who cares! Write it. It doesn’t have to be public. It doesn’t have to be literary.

My best buddy’s great-grandparents and grandparents were pioneers. The women put their stories to paper. Sure, an editor would rip the errors to pieces, but the stories are priceless historical vignettes. The bonus is these women gave their descendants a golden gift.

And, perhaps, more than anything, that’s why I compelled to tell everyone my story.

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4 thoughts on “Memoir Writing. Narcissistic or a Gift?

  1. Isn’t funny how part of the world “gets” memoir writing–and the rest thinks it’s navel-gazing. I think, at the end of the day, documenting one human’s experience is good for the whole. I wish more people did it. Best of luck to you, dear, on your project.

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