Writing Progress on My Memoir
This might actually happen.
For decades, I have been trying to write the story of my life in book form. So many starts have been made that I could fill a book with first chapters alone. I have rewritten different moments in my life so many times that I’m beginning to remember what I wrote about them more than the moments themselves. That can’t be good. But now, finally, I have strung together various writings (choosing the most original ones when possible) into something that resembles the rough draft of a memoir. A very, very rough draft.
But a rough draft nonetheless. And I think I may even be able to finish it by my April birthday. This is technically not the first draft that I promised (and hoped for) in my New Year’s resolution, but it’s so much further than I have ever come before that I’m happy. And who knows, maybe the first draft can be completed by the end of May if not the end of April. I will need to cut out the redundancy of my rough draft and fill in some gaps in order to have that first draft. Then I will go into more serious editing, which requires corrections in continuity, pacing, carrying of theme, etc. I will need to move, not only sentences and paragraphs, but perhaps whole chapters around, adding insights or new scenes and removing any blah blah blah as I go. (I would love to promise that this second draft will be complete by the end of summer, but I’m not advising you to hold your breath on that one. As I discovered last year, summer is not the best time for me to write or work on my writings!)
As I noted earlier in this process, the best laid plans often go awry. There have been moments when I just wanted to be upset about my disrupted plan, pouting and fuming, quite certain that the whole project was beyond me or a waste of time or too tedious — and aren’t there more pleasant things that I could be doing instead? Modifying the plan to have a completed rough draft instead of a completed first draft took a great deal of pressure off of me and helped me to see a little more clearly. A rough draft is rough. By taking things that I had already written, some very recently and some years ago, and throwing them together into chronological order, I accomplished my rough draft. I didn’t write anything wonderful. I didn’t produce something that I would proudly show you. But I’ve got something of a story.
One of the Roadblocks in My Journey
My father scanned in some of my handwritten work from the 1990s so that I could read where my mind was at back then. What I discovered is that things didn’t happen in my life in quite the measured out timeline as I had thought. Different questions and viewpoints were occurring in my mind all at once, which slowly (and not so slowly) got sifted and sorted through varying experiences and sometimes through the later processing of experiences. Although I had decided earlier this year to focus on my conversion story and work outward from there, I became quite discouraged because the workings of my mind and heart during my conversion were now very difficult to lay out. Conversion is not always a neat and tidy process. (I wonder if it ever is.)
Thankfully, at Mass one Sunday, I was given a shift in theme, back to my original idea of what I really wanted to write about in telling the story of my life. Although not quite clear enough to be called a focus (and I still have doubts), this theme helped me decide what to throw in and what to leave out of my rough draft. Having now written two book rough drafts, I can tell you that this is a crucial first task: deciding what the book is and what the book is not.
Coming up on My Blog
Next week, you will read a piece of flash fiction here on my blog, one that I wrote in December for a local writer’s group to which I belong. The prompt that prompted the particular piece was “misunderstanding” and it led me to a scene from Holy Week. Therefore, I will be sharing the very short story with you on the Thursday before Holy Week. Then, on Holy Thursday, I will complete my Lenten reflections on prayer, and on Easter Thursday I will share one of my favorite Easter pieces that I have previously posted. After that, I will go back to posting every other week at least until the end of June, a month that has five Thursdays. On the fifth Thursday of June, I will post another memoir update (and hopefully figure out my plans for the rest of the summer by then.)
Did you get all of that? I hope so, because there will be a test. 🙂
Have you ever tried to write the story of your life? If so, then I would greatly appreciate your sharing of plans and struggles in the comments. (I always appreciate any and all comments, no matter the subject, no matter how long or short.)
“See” you next week,
Feature Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash
Christina Chase View All
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.
Awesome stuff! Am wishing that you get it done by your birthday for sure! I myself have not written about my life (not as inspiring), but I’ve written a few bits of fiction, and the worst part for me is the saggy middle, which never seems to end. Anyway, thanks for this post, Christina!
Thank you for visiting me, Stuart! The “saggy middle” is something I also wrestle with in writing nonfiction! Unfortunately, the saggy middle of a memoir is, um… most of my life. What do I put in and what do I leave out? So everything’s going in the rough draft. (Well, okay, I’m not going to describe every outfit I wore or food I ate, etc..) In your works of fiction, have you ever used flashbacks? It seems to be a common technique in memoirs, but I’ve decided not to use them. …I think I’ve decided.
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