How to keep writing memoir
Rest assured, it is very useful to write a book – to write anything – even if we don’t get round to finishing it. We learn a lot in the process, and we figure out stuff which perhaps isn’t suitable for anyone else to read anyway, so that’s all good. In any case, as any writer will tell you, ‘finishing’ has a rather subjective aspect to it: is a book we are writing ever ‘finished’?
But writing memoir can feel peculiarly, individually self-obsessed, so it feels almost easier than in most creative endeavours, to say, ‘What am I doing this for? I should give up now, before I get carried away … before I end up being swallowed up in this idiotic undertaking. What do I know, anyway?’
It is so easy then, to shut the book and never go back to it. It lies around on the shelf, while we feel uncomfortable and slightly ashamed. I know all about that.
Self belief is fundamental for doing anything as intangible as writing.
There are those who will, when you tell them snippets from your life, nod encouragingly and say, ‘Hey, you have had a really interesting life, I’d love to read about it!’ But by and large, writing memoir is a private undertaking, best understood alone and fashioned in private into something that may, eventually, end up being something more.
It takes years, though. Unlike all the rags to riches stories favoured of Hollywood and Bollywood of starlets immediately getting that sign-up, or winning a national talent contest, ‘instant success’ for authors is usually the result of about ten years of hard graft. So, be prepared to work hard for nothing, for a long time.
Doesn’t sound promising, does it? But when the chips are down, we rarely write memoir because of the tangible, commercial rewards. We write because challenges have to be met sometime, so we might as well meet them while we can, head on.