The Memoir-Writing Process: Hazardous

Sometimes as I wrote, I was in a fugue, as when I was drugged at sixteen, an episode of the memoir.  And all along, the process led me toward the precipices of foolish acts, unaccountable acts.  For instance, immersion in old years left leaves me prone to fits of sweet love, when I wanted to fling my arms around all the people of the past, throw caution to the winds, and kiss them passionately.

…This brings me to the hazards associated with writing the memoir. Warnings for the novice, for any about to set their walking sticks on the memoirist’s trail.

Many have noted how the writing robs the writer of his memories.  Nabokov laments, as he refers to the writing implements of his childhood, “Alas, these pencils, too, have been distributed among the characters in my books to keep fictitious children busy; they are not quite my own now…Few things are left, many have been squandered…”

In Proust we find the thought that it is not the author who creates the story, but the story that creates the author. Beware who you create.  She’ll stay with you, take you over, define you forever after.  I think it prudent—and I have done this myself—to purposely leave out, preserve, some memories, episodes, and favorite people, so that not all your memories are stolen from you, trapped in the cage of sentences.

Another hazard of writing a memoir:  the people of your past seem, alternately like a pack of zombies ready to attack and submerge you, and a throng of dream people showering you with love.  Either shakes your little pram.

Originally posted on Monday, November 19th, 2012

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