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Telling Your Truth Through Writing - A Conversation

Lesson 4 of 7

Finding Balance In Memoir Writing

 

Telling Your Truth Through Writing - A Conversation

Lesson 4 of 7

Finding Balance In Memoir Writing

 

Lesson Info

Finding Balance In Memoir Writing

So the key to writing a successful memoir is not just writing about those truths, not just doing what I did when I was blogging, right? Not just writing essentially, what amounts to a suicide mode on the Internet. This this key to a successful memoir is finding a balance of constructive narrative and honesty, right? You want to be authentic, you want to be rial. You want to be honest. But the truth is, you're also creating a character, and the character is you. So what do I mean by creating a character? I mean writing. Ah, whole full person. But leaving out the boring stuff, right? Think of it leaving while leaving out the weird and creepy stuff to not you want some of the weird, but like if it spills over, you got to think of it like taking a selfie. OK, so you're not going to take a selfie, you get out of bed and you sit down on the toilet. You're not going to take a selfish unless you're like, deeply messed up. You're not going to take like this straining on the toilet self. No one ...

wants to see that. No, Right. Maybe they just get up. Look messy. This is what I look like in the morning. That's a good selfie, right? Especially if you're profoundly beautiful on what you look like in the morning puts the rest of us to shame. But you have to find that balance, right? You don't want to be like unless you're Kardashian yourself. He isn't going to include you in all this contouring makeup. That's boring. We don't need to see that. But at the same time, please, as a favor to me in mine, no toilet selfies Well, you're looking for in a memoir is an authentic picture of who you really are, one that's interesting and not dull. That leaves out like I said, the boring parts that's revelatory, that reveals truth without being grossly off putting. This is a lot easier if you're a novelist. Why anybody think why? Why does this use your for novelist? Because they can lie right? You can make it up if you're so. If you're too boring, you just make it up. Even if you're writing from life, you can embroider. You can leave out the gross stuff. So in that novel, love and other impossible pursuits that I when I realized that I was going to reveal this, that the only way to write this novel was to reveal this terrifying truth about my family. I obscured it. I hit it under differences. I hid the truth in. I took sort of the emotional truth, and I embroidered about it. A breuder did so that you actually wouldn't necessarily recognize the people that I was telling the truth about. That's like the gift of fiction, right? You can do that. The thing about memoir is, if you do, if you do that, then you're a bullshit artist. Then you're James Frye, a 1,000,000 dishonest pieces and I mean you can do that. He's still making a ton of money, but I feel like that's Ah, that is that that betrays the whole process that we're trying to engage in. And I think that ultimately there's part of memoir that's writing for people, but it's also writing for yourself. I think there's a riel. You do yourself a real service when you write these truths, and if you're just lying, you kind of skipped that whole part. Um, when it came time to write this most recent book. When it came time to write a really good day, I couldn't do that embroidery. I couldn't do that kind of obfuscating because it's a memoir, right? It has to be true. So, um, this is how that book came about. I decided I was going to do this. Like I said, my marriage was in trouble. Um, I was my mood disorder. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is basically like I said, like you're bipolar, but only in the week before your period. And it's very easy to deal with that. You take a week of SSR eyes before your period and then you act like a normal human being, and it works instantly. It's not like usually if you're taking antidepressants, it takes some months toe work. This worked right away. Like if you have PMS or P M. D d. And you take ah, Prozac a Celexa. Within 20 minutes, you feel better. So, for years I had a mood disorder that wasn't a problem at all, like everyone. So I'll be a little bit bitchy. But like Hello, ladies. Who is so, um But suddenly, when I became perimenopausal when I got older, when you know I my periods were kind of out of whack, and I know there's some of you in this room and probably listening. Who can sympathize with that? You never know. When you're going to get your period. You can time your medication so suddenly. The thing that I was relying on wasn't working, and my mood just completely plummeted. And because I was alternating these rages in these despairs, my marriage started to suffer, and I have four Children and I was being a really crappy parent to my four Children. And things were getting worse and worse and worse. And I kept trying different therapies and nothing worked and eventually got desperate. And for a long time I used to do drug policy reform work. When I was a criminal defense attorney and I have been reading about micro dose ing with psychedelic drugs, Micro dozing is taking a 1/10 of a dose, a tiny dose of a psychedelic drug. You take it every three days. It's a sub perceptual dose, so you don't trip. But you people have people Basically. People reported that they took the drug every three days, and they ended up looking back at the end of the day and saying, Oh my God, that was a really good day When I read that I was like That's what I want. I just want a really good day That's all I want. So I made this really crazy decision that I was going to do this for a month, and then I decided that I was going to keep a record of it cause I wanted to know if it worked. I wanted to basically like a mood chart, but a narrative mood chart. And because I'm a writer, I tend to understand my own emotions through writing. So I kept a diary for 30 days, and at the end of the 30 days I looked and I thought, Oh my God, you have a book But what I had was the first draft of a book, right? I had the raw motion, but I hadn't constructed the memoir. I hadn't constructed the character, and I don't mean lie. I mean, put it in a make it into a form that is easier for the reader to understand. That gives it some kind of meaning that gives it a structure that is accessible and meaningful So then I had to start rewriting and the proper. I took me a month to write the first draft, and it took me about six months to do all the rewriting, the 12 drafts or so over vision. And that's what I mean by being able to commit to construct that, construct that character, construct that order, figure out the arc of your narrative. So it's interesting. Give it a plot. Even a memoir needs a plot, so you have to find that plot.

Class Description

Humans are programmed to think and speak in stories -- it’s in our DNA. Narratives are an incredibly powerful communication device, and yet they’re built from a relatively simple set of components: plot, conflict, setting, point of view, atmosphere and most importantly characters. Together, they share the writer’s message in a way unlike anything else. Writing your own story though can be uncomfortable and difficult.


In this hour-long session, NYT bestselling author Ayelet Waldman will dive into her approach to constructing narratives, focusing specifically on the challenges and opportunities of memoir writing. Starting with the critical importance of authenticity and honesty, she’ll surface and address the most common (and difficult) choices writers make during the creative process. She’ll also be leading a short exercise to help get you started and become comfortable with writing your truth. She will also cover her writing process, the importance of discipline to write everyday, having her own writing studio, and how to avoid distractions when it is time to work. 

Reviews

Mike McArdle
 

Ayelet instructs in plain English the mechanics to accurately write a memoir that is appealing, true and powerful. She is a superb communicator and is able to be honest, vulnerable and powerful when teaching this class. She's a real master. Thank you Ayelet and good luck in all that you do. :-)

Cathy Mauro
 

Thank you for this course, it was inspiring and motivating, I too love research over getting it on paper, it felt good to hear how to manage it. I have to say though this really felt like a journey that landed me on an existential answer. My father had a Green Dodge Dart in the mid-seventies, and in it my face was slammed twice, once as it hit the front seat from being rear ended and seconds later, as we hit a small tree. Is this a sign? Or what?

Tammy Fuller
 

I loved this. Ayelet is a wonderful storyteller and her class was compelling. I loved how she gave actionable tips to get me started.