SAW Conference continued…

This is the second part of an introduction I gave to a seminar at the Scottish Association of Writers Annual Conference at Cumbernauald on Saturday, 18th March.

‘….The first 25 or 30 drafts of any memoir that we are writing can, and often will be as sentimental, overblown, subjective, unfair, emotionally exhausting and entirely self-obsessed as we need them to be. But as we write, and once we get to draft 35 or 40, as part of the process, we gain distance and a different perspective, and we have an amazing chance to learn real empathy with the story of others.

Despite the fact that readers may consider memoir writers self-obsessed, the real value of the process is that, though a process of self-reflection, we gain empathy with others, and with ourselves.

As part of the process of writing our memoir (which we hope to see published one day) we:-

  • approach the task with trepidation, on tiptoe.
  • Are subjective, emotional and sometimes very unfair when in the early stages of writing. But no-one else is going to read our first thirty-five drafts, so we can write what we want!
  • Get through all the emotional work and come out the other side feeling different, better and more aware.

If and when we finally reach our goal of publication – which can take ten years – as part of this process, we have to accept that:-

  • Our work is no longer ours. It becomes public property.
  • Other people will expect to have a view about what we have written, so it helps to let go of our darlings.
  • Having spent years getting to this point, what have we to show for it? Not a lot, on the face of it.

But we do come away from the process with more empathy; so empathy is our ultimate reward for a long, hard process of reflection.

Increased awareness may be all we get, but this in itself is extremely valuable and worthwhile. Empathy for others, and for ourselves; and a much clearer, and calmer appreciation of our value in the world.

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