The thing about memoir is that whatever you write, someone is likely to disagree with you, someone may be angered, someone might be hurt.
To write memoir, you need a clear understanding of why you write and why you publish. Odds are you will be asked, perhaps even attacked for your story.
To read memoir, you need to be aware that you are reading a single version of a story. If each character in the memoir were to pen their own story, they would see the events through different prisms. If you were to rewrite your story, the versions might differ as you wrote from new perspectives of age and experience.
I believe in honesty and truth.
I believe I cannot be a complete human without examining my life with a clear eye and, at times, brutal honesty. I write memoir because I need to understand myself and my past, my decisions and my motivations. I write to know who I am and where I stand in this crazy world.
Some may say, "Fine. Write. But why publish?"
That's a tough question, made more so if you believe your memoir may cause distress or that your version of life lived differs from that of those you cherish.
I publish because without publishing, I deny my voice. If I stash a manuscript in a drawer and try to forget it's there, I am censoring not only my words, but my essence, my life, my value. If I allow myself to be swayed by letting others dictate what I can publish, I forfeit my voice. By forfeiting voice, I forfeit self.
This is a tough challenge for the memoirist. No matter how careful and sensitive, honest and kind, you try to be, no matter how deeply you dug to find your personal truth, there's a good chance someone will call you a liar. Someone will deny your right to tell your story.
Are you strong enough? Can you withstand the pain?
Why do you write memoir? Why do you read it? Why are you reading this blog series (I'm glad you are - thank you!)?
I read memoir for truth. I read memoir to see the world of another and understand the decisions made, the how and the why of their choices. I read memoir just as I read fiction, for the poetic beauty of a story well-told.
Some value spoken over written word. Some can express themselves best through conversation. I am not one of them. I struggle to express my thoughts and ideas, my truths and passions, orally. I need pen and paper to organize my brain, to put words to passions, to find my own truth. It is that truth that I believe makes me a better human being even as I recognize that truth changes, that memory itself changes truth. I know I must continue to write even when the path is blurred and full of emotional potholes. To do less is to deny my humanity.
Prior posts in the Muddling Memoir series:La Flor de Noche Buena