Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writing About Ourselves

I think it is a whole lot easier to write about other people than ourselves.  Several readers of the first drafts of my memoir said, "I want to know more about you, Susan." Here I thought I had bared my soul!

On closer examination, I could see that much of what I wrote was detached.  I stood back, looked at myself through a wide angle rather than a telephoto lens. I was afraid to get up close and personal with Susan.

I have noticed when talking to women in the Circle and other women writing about themselves, a desire to "look good" to the reader. It is human nature to want admiration . . .  but can we compromise the truth when we merely strive to please?  The answer is an emphatic Yes.

Let me give an example. I wrote about several men I dated after the death of my husband. I gave great details about their quirks and idiosyncrasies.  My readers wanted to know why I, "a strong, intelligent woman," (because that's how I presented myself in the story) would be so "stupid" not to see these guys were toads. It hurt to be criticized.  Then I realized they had drawn this conclusion due to my lack of honesty.  I was afraid to dig deep.  I was afraid to write about my vulnerability . . . to show Susan, the needy, little girl wanting to be rescued. I figured my readers would think less of me. Yet, if I had done the soul-searching work, the pieces of my story would have fallen into place.

Memoir is hard work.  It is not for the faint of heart.  That said, the rewards are many.  Not only is it therapy, it is a journey leading to peace and understanding, not just about others, but ourselves; our fragility, our weakness, our humanness.

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