The Transparent-No-More Memoir Writer or Why I am Writing Fiction These Days




The plans and expectations I had for today when I woke changed when I greeted my daughter after returning from daily job number one to discover the intense swelling about my child's face -- leading me to call employer number two and ask to be removed from my scheduled afternoon shift. On Thursday of last week, my daughter had a trampoline mishap which bought her a head wound and seven stitches inside the hairline where her natural middle hairline part begins. Yesterday, her face swelled below this injury, and as a precaution, we spent our afternoon at hospital. Today, the swelling is worse. Her brow-line and cheekbones have all but vanished; her eye is almost swollen shut. Having the emergency room doctor's reassurances still ringing in my ears, I know this swelling is likely non-emergent from a medical pov. Still, I can't say I wanted to leave my baby girl alone until the 8pm-ish timeline when I would have returned from work. Meg, my manager, fantastically agreed with me, so I'll be working a Wednesday shift for them instead. Today, I get to stay home and baby my baby girl.


Sheena is currently basking in the teenage wonderland of her bedroom -- I can hear the tunes spinning. This means I am free to pursue my weekly writing goals. For today, I have mapped out some optimistic word counts. I want to work on both the novel which Sheena partially inspired and which I am halfway through and the new novel I was pounding away at until 3:30 Sunday am. I also wish to write the book review simmering in my head about The Boy on the Beach, by Tima Kurdi, which I bawled my way through yesterday afternoon. Reading the book left me feeling utterly wrung out. As someone who has written memoirs, I can only imagine what the process of writing the story must have been like.


Despite my personal agenda, I became distracted when I stumbled across a pdf file of the memoir I wrote for my MFA grad thesis -- On Running Away from the Zoo to Join the Circus. Opening the file, I began to skim through the prologue I had written for this manuscript. It has been eight years since I completed that degree, so I'd forgotten some of the content. Some has me laughing, though, because I remember it like it was yesterday. Single mother of four children, I returned to university when my youngest daughter was four months old -- thus the title of the memoir. According to the prologue I had written, one of the members of my thesis advisory committee suggested that reading the book felt like I was trying to make order out of chaos. I replied, "Exactly." Welcome to my life.


I enjoyed reading my old prologue, although I cringingly identified three grammar errors in this, the final and published version of my document. Ouch, says my pride. Still, it was interesting enough that instead of proceeding with the day's goals, I continued skimming chapters. Sitting at my computer eight years later, I find myself amazed at the honesty and transparency which fill the pages of my memoir. I talk about my divorce, my parenting, my mother, my sex life, my then-languishing spiritual faith, and I admire the forthright nature of my university mind revealed in the pages of the book.


The writing of my memoir is strong. I, at least, find the subject matter interesting. I think to myself, who was I, that I could so transparently expose myself and so subjectively dissect the instruction of the very people charged with reading this manuscript -- and passing me based upon its merit? Is that arrogance or confidence, youth or indiscretion, or a combination of all that and more? Then I think, this is good enough to be published, but could I be that ballsy?


I don't think so. I like to think that I am an honest, authentic person. These are my ideals, at least. But I don't think the person I am today could publicly expose herself this thoroughly anymore. I don't think I want my children to read about my sexual misadventures. I definitely don't want my mother to read about a daughter's occasional feelings of negative parental critique. I am older and wiser today, and I know it would crush me were my children to publicly detail the ways they feel I have failed them. If I couldn't handle it happening to me, I can't perpetrate that upon the woman who is my all-time number one champion. No way, nuh-uh, not happening. Honour thy father and mother and all that. Besides, my mother is a woman who is easy to honour. I admire the openness of my thesis writing, but I realize, I couldn't write all of this today. Maybe that makes me less as a writer, but it makes me more as a person.


Which means, it is time to go check in on the child with the temporarily deformed face, then get back to the joys and relative safety of writing fiction.



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