Stage One writing

There are many things to consider when writing memoir. And there are things we can do, to make the disclosures we – eventually – publish, easier to live with. But that comes only after we have gone through the initial processes of writing, editing, agonising and re-writing… All of which can take a year or three.

Make a start, because the process itself will, if we approach it in a positive spirit, throw more light on what to do next.

Any writing can be broken down into several stages. The first stage, which I suppose we may characterise very approximately as “splurge”, is not intended to be read by anyone except its originator, the author. At its most useful, it is uncensored, emotive stuff thrown on the page at speed and without thought or plan. It is, in some ways, the purest form of original creation.

Stage One writing is only ever read by the author. And it seems to be particularly applicable to memoir. Therefore, in getting the first scratchings down on the page and out of our system we can be as crass, rude, unfair and unkind in what we write at that stage. Writing memoir is very often about laying our ghosts to rest. So forming something out of thoughts and long-held memories, it is a good idea to excavate hard with the feelings and let the words express themselves as they wish. Which means, we can write anything; which means in turn, that there is a tacit agreement that what we have written is not shown to anyone else.

If what we have produced on the page is “respectable” enough to be read by anyone else at this early stage in the proceedings, perhaps we have not really been honest at all. Or perhaps we really have had a wonderful life and want to share the joy. Cool.

Far too many authors are guided by the gremlin or the ghost that lives on their shoulder into thinking that they must, at all costs, and too early in the proceedings, be dignified and reasonable. Whereas, it is neither dignity nor reason that drives a person – perhaps almost insane with despair – to take that first step and start writing.

Thanks for listening.

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