Me? Write a Memoir? But…!

by Gail Kittleson

Decades ago, some friends invited us to go rafting on a local stream. I thought our son, three years old at the time, would be excited, but he said,

          “I’m scared of those rabbits, Mommy.”

          “Rabbits?”

          “Yeah. Evelyn said we’re going to come to some rabbits…”

Those rapids would’ve scared me, too, if I thought they might hop into our raft. After a bit of explanation about the mild rapids, our son loved rafting.

**

Misunderstandings often ground our fears, and this proves true with writing. Being afraid to express our anxieties in black and white originates in false assumptions:

  1. What we write may be used against us.
  2. There’s a ‘right’ way to write, and we haven’t learned how.
  3. Once we write something down, we’re bound to the perspective we embraced at the time.
  4. Once written, our words will be “golden,” and therefore, we can’t destroy them.

          First of all, what we write may be used against us. But this is no reason to forego all the benefits of the process. Writing in a safe place that no one ever sees has done wonders for many people experiencing trials.

The feeling that we have no control over who might see what we write can keep us bound by the tide of emotions swirling inside us. Launching out to safely journal our thoughts, tied irrevocably to those emotions, may seem beyond our power.

          In order to take this tentative step, we must unlearn the second misconception, that there’s a ‘right’ way to write. Nothing could be farther from the truth. No perfect method for expressing what we feel exists.

In fact, the ‘perfect way’ will be the way our words come out. Each person’s story contains unique content, since it comes from our one-of-a-kind inner being. Each of us perceives even the identical situation with variations.

A family outsider, my sister, or my brother will see what I remember differently than I do. But my first feeble step—even if that amounts to writing one short paragraph about what’s transpiring inside me—unleashes immense healing power.

          Now to the third misnomer: we are not bound by our viewpoint at any given time. A glance around us reveals that everything changes constantly. The only constant is change, as they say.

If I still looked at what I experienced fifteen years ago with the same eyes, I would be in big trouble. But the thing is, I would never have arrived at my present perspective if I hadn’t started writing down my thoughts and feelings.

          At the time, my journal pages seemed somehow sacred, and they were. But as the years have passed, I’ve grown, and at certain points, I let go of certain writings from the pasts. Burned them, because they no longer seemed ‘golden.’ Some of them, I kept and edited. And re-edited, and re-re-edited into a memoir. That’s not the route for everyone, but proved to be an important part of my journey.

The point is, your writings are your writings. You have the right to choose what to do with them, including chucking them down a sinkhole never to be seen again.

And the broader point is that in the darkness of an emotional avalanche, we cannot even know what we think. By allowing words to flow from us, we invite clarity, and through this process, discover truths we would never have imagined.

Words equal an enormous gift—penned quietly in secret places, they blossom like hidden desert plants that bloom in darkness, where no one observes. But their flowers bear perfume, attracting the necessary insects for pollination. It may be that we will rework and launch our writings into a published memoir, but either way, this practice can become a powerful experience.

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than You.” 
Dr. Seuss

 

Gail Kittleson 2

When Gail’s not steeped in World War II historical research, writing, or editing, you’ll find her reading for fun, gardening, or enjoying her grandchildren in Northern Iowa. She delights in interacting with readers who fall in love with her characters.

Gail Kittleson taught college expository writing and ESL before writing women’s historical fiction. From northern Iowa, she facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats, and enjoys the Arizona Ponderosa forest in winter.

catching up

Catching Up With Daylight; a Journey to Wholeness, is Gail’s own memoir. She and her husband began renovating an old house after he returned from a deployment in Iraq.  The book is “a gorgeous tapestry of non-fictional thoughts. This very gifted author knows how to weave her thoughts, memories, and the history of the old house she is refurbishing into a journey of emotional and spiritual wholeness.”

 

Women of the Heartland, Gail’s World War II series, highlights women of The Greatest Generation: In Times Like These, April 2016, With Each New Dawn, February, 2017 A True Purpose (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and Word Crafts Press, December, 2017.)

 

  Cover_APuroseTrue    With Each New Dawn    In-times-like-these
Visit her at the following social media sites:

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NOTE: This article was posted for Gail Kittleson by The Writers In Residence member, Jackie Houchin

Change, Mack, P.D. James, Book Clubs, & Continuity

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell is the author of six award-winning mystery novels. Her current literary focus is Route 66 as it traverses California’s Mojave Desert. Madeline is a lifetime lover of mysteries, and besides reading and writing, is also a potter. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the High Desert. For more information, visit her website or Amazon Author Page.

 
Adler “Mack” Jones thinks, A whole year has passed, and I didn’t even notice. Or see it go by? Or feel it go by? And who the heck is Mack, you ask? The protagonist in a book I just started (600 words written! (smile)) The whole idea for Mack, his friends, and this Mojave story came to me contemplating this blog, an email from Jacqueline Vick, and from Facebook posts by Paul D. Marks on TCM movies. I know, story ideas sometimes come via a convoluted path. But my point for mentioning is; what Mack is thinking, I’m also thinking this early January week of 2016.
My life so far, seems to be broken into chunks, often in ten-year or so groups, punctuated by change. Twenty-sixteen numerically marks the end/beginning of one of those periods—and like Mack, it’s hard to accept 2015 is over? The change has come, but I certainly wasn’t ready for it.
P.D. James advised to “Read widely and with discrimination.” Ha! Easier wanting to do versus actually doing. Give me a good mystery, and I’m set. At the beginning of my last 10 year swatch of time, we’d just recently moved to the high desert. Before that, in Puget Sound I’d been a member of a wonderful book club. And I sure missed it. Fortunately, in not too long of a time (end of 2005) we had a local book club up and going. It is through their wonderful selections I can follow P.D.’s advice. (If you know me, you know P.D. is my “rock star” author.) Here’s an old picture of some of the first members at one of our early initial potlucks at my house. As you might notice, after the book we read, food was an important aspect! We even called ourselves “Books and Cooks.” And how this fits in, besides enabling P.D.’s advice to read widely, is in relation to change and time flying by. (An aside note about time and change—the shelves in back of us are now covered with stuff accumulated over ten or so years! Jeez.)
Which brings me to the writing part of this meandering. Even though I write fiction, it is the “stuff of our lives” that forms, or at a minimum, colors and influences the tales we tell. And no matter what I might literarily imagine, what location I might want to visit in my writing, what intrigue I might want to weave—it’s everyday life, friendships, connections, happenings that take me there.
The personalnugget here—I’m powerless to stop change and time. And that is good—moves me forward! But for some other things, continuity is so important. For example, sharing reading adventures in a book club.
 And, the writing nugget here is; somehow, and I’m not really sure if you can make it happen, or precisely how—but opening our minds and emotions to the serendipitousness of change, while simultaneously holding on to the things in our lives that matter, is what brings richness and depth to our writing. Now, that’s a mouthful! But it’s what Mack is thinking about. What I’m writing about.
Indeed, even writing this post has turned me from, golly where did last year go and why haven’t I finished another novel—to looking forward to the start of a new wonderful year, full of change and continuity from last year—with endless possibilities for Mack!
Happy New Year!