I spent much of this weekend working on the book. Memoir writing can be a thoroughly exhausting and discouraging process. Even though I look back and see I'm making progress, it's never as much as I'd hoped.
Blog writing is different, and publishing a post gives me a sense of accomplishing something. I love the instant gratification, how satisified I feel when I'm done. Works in progress, on the other hand, leave me feeling much like it feels to live in a house with small children... like a mess inside.
And so, sometimes it's hard to be there and here. The book and the blog. To shift the energy and switch gears in my brain.
But after hours and hours and hours of being in "book space", I chatted on the phone with a friend, and then I took a shower, and then... pop pop pop... little flashes of phrases and sentences came to me and I had to grab a pen and jot notes so I'll remember them the next time I sit down to work.
I'm also in the midst of reading "Wild", a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. It's about how she hiked more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother died. There are moments when Strayed is hiking alone, through deep snow and ice, and she doesn't know if she's on the trail anymore. She's checking her compass and going with her instincts, but she just doesn't know. She doesn't know whether to keep going forward or turn back. And then she discovers a sign--a marker tacked to a tree-indicating that she is indeed on the trail.
So perhaps, I'm not lost at all.
Once I was giving a talk, and at the end a man asked, "So, why did you leave TV news anyway? It seems like you had a pretty good life." And I couldn't answer the question. I mean, I did answer him, but I didn't give him the definitive answer he was seeking.
Because, heck, that's the definitive answer I'm seeking. I mean, I know the story--I lived it--but to boil a big story down to the strongest, most critical thread is a challenge. But in all of my favorite memoirs, the author identifies the core desire and the conflict, right from the beginning. I've written hundreds of pages, thousands of words, and the story is there. But identifying the key "desire line" has been the hardest part for me.
I still remember sitting in the audience listening to Sue Monk Kidd describe the method and the madness of writing, and I nodded eagerly, taking notes. It seemed so exciting and creative and fun!
Friends, the madness is not fun.
But the other day, my friend Abby texted me a photo from a page in her Oprah magazine, to encourage me.
I love the entire passage, but especially this:
"Memoir is like a patchwork quilt... and in this world of spin, offers a truthful account of what it means to succeed or fail, to love and lose, to break your heart and mend it again."
I love that memoir is not prescriptive, it's not the top ten ways to fix it. I appreciate how the life lessons and the transformations are shared through story. And as much as I advocate taking brave leaps in life, writing my own memoir is also teaching me the value and the reward that comes from staying the course.