Writing Through the Messy Bits

Earlier this week, I opened up my memoir for the first time since June. 

It was because of a coaching call. I was working with someone in the middle of her memoir, and I wanted to remember. Memoir writing is a completely different beast. You wrestle daily with the fear of content and try your best to believe whatever you’re sharing is going to be a story others would want to read. 

In my mind, I hadn’t written in months because of my job. The last day checked off on my whiteboard, right next to 10k words, is June 2. And maybe my job is part of it. Maybe there are some areas in which I can tweak my schedule in order to give my words priority. 

But now I know the truth.

I didn’t stop writing because of a schedule or because I “got too busy” — I stopped writing because the story got too hard. 

The last scene of my memoir is the moment my best friend and I pulled over on the highway because we saw a plane in the sky and we thought it was falling. It was September 12, 2001 and my entire world felt like it was topsy-turvy. The last sentence I wrote was about how it would be more than a few years before my world felt right again.

What comes next is heartbreak. What comes next is the moment the story I so carefully constructed about my past fell to pieces out from under me. What comes next is the meat of my memoir — the reason I’m writing this book. The reason I was writing this book. 

In Rising StrongBrené Brown talks about owning your story — all of the messy bits. She calls this reckoning and in this moment, the one where I put up my memoir and set is aside out of fear, I didn’t want to reckon with the story I knew I was meant to tell. 

We do this often, don’t we? We hide behind the stories that look pretty. We share the pictures on Instagram we know will bring likes. We opt for the blog posts that will bring a smile rather than a tear. But by ignoring those pieces of who we are, we’re purposefully living fragmented stories. 

I don’t want to do this anymore. 

I want to come to the table with my full self: flaws and quirks and tangles. I know there’s room for every story - including my own. I know the benefit of working out the messy middle and pushing through the resistance. 

But it’s time I act on it. 

Maybe you relate? Maybe you’ve been hiding behind the fear instead of creating. Maybe you’re finding it hard to believe anyone will listen to your story. Maybe you’re tired of fighting the artistic block you’re felt for so long. 

Until you acknowledge your story as important, until you’re wiling to listen and make peace with every tangle, you can’t expect it to ever come out the way you want. Bear witness to the story inside first, take ownership of the way art moves and breathes within you. 

Then, just begin. 

Posted on December 7, 2015 and filed under Building Your Craft.