Monday, January 11, 2016

Muddling Memoir: Trusting the Process

Okay. I'll admit it . I'm feeling a bit lost. The holidays ended and winter quarter began. The skies are gray and the days are cold. I've got another miserable cold I can't seem to beat, but what I don't have is a story. I'm not writing. There, I said it. I'm not writing. Sure, I'm reading and thinking. I'm tippy-toeing around the periphery of faded memory, but I haven't found the door yet. I haven't entered, and I haven't discovered the story that lies within.

Is this what some refer to as writers' block? Or, am I just tired, bored, lazy? Or perhaps Pretense finally caught up with me, now tapping a gnarled finger on my forehead repeating: "You can't write. You have nothing to say. Just give it up and go watch the Seahawks game or a Hallmark movie."

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the Seahawks and Hallmark brings back warm memories of watching with my mother, explaining the simple plot lines to a brain befuddled by dementia. But neither Seahawks nor Hallmark, teaching myself to sketch nor learning what I can about marketing, or even repotting house plants and dreaming of future home remodels should pull me away from the writing. They never have before.

I've lived through a lifetime of gray, depressing Seattle winters. I've started a good ninety new college terms in my long career, and I've dealt with more head colds and sinus infections than reasonable for a healthy woman. So what gives? Why am I struggling with this story? Why can't I find it?

The thing about writing memoir, about muddling around in the past, is that sometimes it hurts. Sometimes we just don't want to go there and our brain and body put up every roadblock imaginable to avoid it. Some folks manage to navigate through life with little more than a glance over the shoulder. Others spend large chunks of time examining the past, trying to make sense of life lived, decisions made, people and places experienced. Unless life has been fairytale-perfect, that examination can be tough. We go through life hearing things life "you think too much" or "you're too self-absorbed" or "it's not your problem." Maybe all of that's true. Maybe it's not. Maybe we're memoirists and we have stories to tell.

So why am I struggling to find that story? Why the avoidance? Maybe I'm just a lazy sod who wants nothing more than a snorkeling vacation in Hawaii or the Bahamas. But as I read the signs and examine the more recent years - the last thirteen since I began writing by penning my first memoir - I know this is just a phase. I need to trust the process. That same process that has given me other stories. I need to put pen to paper for thirty minutes every morning and see what shows up on the page. The story will emerge if I trust the process. The alternative? Toss pen and notebook in the trash and walk away. But I know where that would lead me and it's not a pretty place. 

Prior posts in the Muddling Memoir series: 
La Flor de Noche Buena


Jan said...

I'm also having trouble getting back into the swing of things. I think it's just a post holiday slump. My advice is not to worry about it! Your muse will return! Best, Jan

arleen said...

Thanks, Jan. I'm sure you're absolutely right. Happy writing!

Amy Williams Dapice said...

And just when I felt I was the only one (duh) feeling this way. Thanks Arleen. You said it, "put pen to paper for 30 minutes." Results be damned!

arleen said...

Nope. Not alone! Thanks for reading (and writing), Amy.