Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Writing Is Hard," I Said

Writing is hard. It's easy to mess around and write whatever I feel like, which is what I usually do. If I write something good, I publish it on here, and if what I write sucks, I don't. Simple. But I have over two months to prepare for my next period in Romania and I swore that something I would do is get serious about writing. I want to write with a goal in mind. Maybe write short stories, or work on a book. But as you've gathered by now, it isn't that easy.

There is one main reason why this isn't easy. The reason is that I like to write autobiographically. I enjoy memoirs and autobiographies and I have been lucky to have had an interesting life. Thus, my desire to pursue putting my life on paper. But the thing about my life is that, um, I am not the only one in it. I have family and friends and there are people I have run into along the way and not everyone has contributed to my story in a positive way. People have misunderstood me and shut me out and screamed at my window from the dorm parking lot, and those are just the minor offenses. I really, really don't want my memoir to be only about how people have done me wrong. I really don't. But writing about how people have hurt me, how living with others can be difficult and how I have decided to let people go is necessary. All that is a big part of what has made me who I am today.

I have the idea that maybe if I write from a point of forgiveness and understanding of others, then the reader will come away with the idea that I am not trying to expose people in my life but that I am being honest, while offering them the benefit of the doubt. But part of me thinks that sounds like wishful thinking at best and rubbish at worst. I just finished the memoir Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison and he offers a great explanation of his process for writing about his parents. He made the choice to write about his home life and it encourages me that he was able to do it in a way that was open yet did not paint anyone as a monster. That is something I am worried about being guilty of. Once I publish a memoir, I can't unpublish it. Once the information is out there, I can't get it back. I must be able to take responsibility for the can of worms I may end up opening.

The motivation for writing a memoir should, I think, be based mainly on the desire to tell a story. If you get your own emotions and opinions involved too much, the story can end up sacrificed for other things. These other things can include your ego, your personal vendettas, your desire to be heard, and your overall need to feel justified. "She hurt me, he lied to me, they ignored me but this is why was right all along!" I never want that strident, cloying voice to be mine.

I think I'm still coming to a place of acceptance in my life. I'm trying to understand what full forgiveness is. I still feel at times like if only people knew what was happening in my life when I was 20, 19, 18, basically all the way down to when I was ten years old and even four, then I would somehow be at peace with everything. That everything would be worth it if only I would not be alone in the middle of my story. If other people were in it with me, even if only in retrospect, then maybe it wouldn't be so painful. Maybe it wouldn't make me so angry. But I know that my being okay with my past must come before the sharing of it. At least, as much as possible.

There is a way to write about others, and not just fictional others, in a way that is fair and accurate. I hope to learn exactly what that way is. Life is messy because people are messy. My family is messy and my friends are messy and I am absolutely messy. It really doesn't boil down to good people vs. bad people, not even half the time. Everyone has a story even if not everyone writes it. Some of the people in my life who have done the most damage to me are incredibly broken people themselves. They have their own emotional, mental and physical trauma that has left me in a state of not knowing how to feel. How should I feel, when the person berating me has chronic pain? When the person who obviously doesn't care that I'm suicidal is losing a loved one, slowly and painfully? I could go on. These are my sticky situations.

There are good things to share, though. People who have left me better than they found me. People like Jeff,* who I met last year and became my work buddy and one of my good friends. We stuck together like two peas in a pod. Everyone at work thought we were dating, but really we were just talking about Star Wars and telling each other the highlights of our shift. There's Crystal,* my roommate last year, who has become one of my best friends. She understands me in a way few people do. She's also just legitimately stylish and rad. And then there's my Romanian family, and my next door family...and there are more friends and family that make my story a happy one. I want to tell my tale properly, including the good and the bad. And I have a feeling that as I figure out how to do that, I will see even happier things develop.

I have a knack for predicting things. Not everything, not all the time. But I can read people pretty well, and I get good feelings and bad feelings, and I tend to do best when flying by the seat of my pants. I predict a happy ending. I've just got to get there first, and when I'm ready, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I'll just be writing as much as I can...