“Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.”—Barbara Kingsolver, author of Flight Behavior and many other wonderful books.
There are lots of reasons folks put off writing a memoir. One of the most difficult to overcome is the nagging fear that their memory of events is not exactly right.
Of course, nobody’s is exactly right.
So Let’s Talk About Memory
Memory is a subjective thing, as Kingsolver correctly notes. If you’ve ever watched three witnesses describing the same event, you’ll get the idea. No two memories are alike.
Here’s the Thing: Your Memories are Your Own
What does this mean for you? Well when somebody you talk to about specific memory—especially someone in the family—says, “No that’s wrong. It didn’t happen that way,” don’t be deterred.
It’s the way you remember it. That’s what’s important. Why? Because it’s your own memory, not someone else’s. Stick to your guns and write down your memories as you remember them. That’s what counts. After all, it’s not going to be their memoir. It’s going to be yours, and yours alone.
Don’t be nervous that you’re telling a lie. You could even say in your introduction that this is the way you remember events, if it makes you more comfortable. The important thing, as Nike™ is fond of saying, is to “just do it.” And keep doing it.
How You Ask?
I’m gonna tell you. But let’s take it one thing at a time. I don’t want you getting overwhelmed right at the start of a project. I know how that works. Then it’s too easy to throw up your hands and say, “Well it’s too much for me. I can’t do it.”
That little devil on your shoulder will remind you it’s too much, whenever he gets a chance. Don’t let him. Make a plan.
In a future post, I’ll show you a step-by-step way to begin. And then, it’s just a matter of keeping at it.
A Valuable Secret
Let me share a little secret with you that I discovered the hard way: it’s the keeping at it part that’s hard. It’s a matter of habit, and habits need to be nurtured. In order for something to become habit, it must be repeated. A lot! According to Charles Douhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, new habits take time to form. In my own experience, whenever I stop writing for a while, it’s bad. It takes loads of self-discipline and “psyching myself up” in order to begin again.
The secret? Just don’t stop! Keep at it. Keep a yellow pad by your bed. Write for ten minutes when you wake up. Or just sit down in front of your computer and write complete nonsense for a bit. It’s important to do it for a period of time so that it becomes habitual for you.
In a few weeks, you’ll have your new habit down. Better yet, you’ll be writing every day. (Think I’ll try that!) Tell the little devil to back off. You may have to use sterner words, but you’ll know best how to handle him. He’s no more than your inner critic in disguise. Don’t acknowledge him and don’t judge what you’ve written while you are writing it, and he can’t block your progress. Give him the boot, and just keep writing. Someday, you’ll be glad you did.
As someone famously said, if you write just one page a day, at the end of the year you’ll have 365 pages. They won’t all be good ones of course, but there’ll be something you can use in all that mass of words. Maybe a lot of somethings.
Trust me. This works!
P.S.: I realize the butterflies in the Dreamtime™ photo above are not monarchs. I think they’re fritillaries. But I’m in a hurry to get this information to you, so forgive me please for not being as accurate as I should be. Mea culpa!