Writing Close To The Truth
I'm an accidental memoirist. I didn't do it on purpose. This is what happened. I was writing novels and I decided I was on this very rigid one book a year schedule because I got my start writing mystery novels, writing genre fiction. And when you write mystery novels, you have toe get them out fast because people who read mysteries they re like, You know, I'm a mystery reader. You you kind of read them like bubble gum. You know, you put one in your mouth and chew it up, spit out, get another piece. So after a while, that can get a za writer that can get very, uh, you know, maybe the word to use is exhausting. So I decided I was going to take a break. I decided I was going to take a three month hiatus from writing fiction, and I put it all away, and I thought, I'll like, do yoga and I'll walk the dog and I'll spend more time with my kids. And what ended up happening the first morning was that I created a blawg because apparently I have Hypo Graphia and I actually can't stop writing. So ...
when I wasn't being When I wasn't writing for money, I was writing for myself. So that Blawg kind of developed and, you know, it included all sorts of crazy things. This was in the heyday of blogging. So, like I had a picture of Kate Winslet and I said I liked her better when she wait a little more And I had, you know, just a little body shaming between you and may. I had screens about various topics that I cared about, and I had had a lot of really personal stuff to and what happened? Waas, Um I I have a mood disorder. I have. It's I don't have bipolar disorder. Have something called P M d d, which is premenstrual dysphoric disorder that we can talk about. Basically, it means, like, right before my period, I go kind of crazy. And, um, I wrote this post one night that amounted basically to a suicide Note it waas If you knew me, it was terrifying. If you didn't know me, it was interesting. But luckily, someone who was in a different time zone saw that called a friend, and um, it turned out that I had just had a little glitch in my medication, and I made a phone call. The psychiatrist said, Take this pill. Everything was fine. But having done that live, having been that raw in such a public forum, scared me. And I thought to myself this I'm a writer. I don't I don't want to be just spewing out there. I want to be thoughtful about the kinds of things that I, um, cut the kinds of exposure that I dio. So I made the fabulous economic decision to hitch my writing horse to the salon dot com wagon. Yeah, and But I had a great time for a little while writing a column on Salon, and that column was much more like what we're gonna be talking about today. That column was personal. Sometimes it was very personal, but it was also political. It was also current. It merged all the different things that I was interested in, and it was really thoughtful. Every every column that I wrote was very carefully considered and constructed, and that's part of my message today. I mean, what memoir is is the truth, the most personal, compelling truth that is carefully and thoughtfully constructed and presented so my salon column and other essays that I wrote ended up turning into a volume that I published a memoir that I published. It's kind of a hybrid memoir essay collection called Bad Mother, which was about primarily motherhood. I have four kids right now. They range in age from 13 to 22. My I just got a text from my oldest saying that kids are getting arrested in the streets in Connecticut and what should you do? So right before I came on stage, I sent her the link to the A C L U in Connecticut. Let's go. And the the youngest is So I've learned a little bit along the way. I started out like I said, accidentally doing it in a way I don't recommend, and I've I'm no, by no means an expert. But I feel like now, having come coming out with my second memoir, which is this book, um, called a really good day. How micro dosing made a mega difference in my mood, my marriage in my life. I feel like I have some tips that I'd like to share with you guys, um, the most important thing I want to say is that writing about yourself writing, memoir, writing about personal stuff is both self indulgent and scary, and the trick is to maximize the ladder and minimize the former. You want to minimize that self indulgence, but you want to get us close as possible to the really scary stuff, because the scary stuff is the juice. So what do I mean by that? What do I mean by scary? So let me use an example from my fiction. When I first started the novel that went on to become love and other impossible pursuits, I am. I was away at a writer's colony in New Hampshire called the MacDowell Colony, which is basically heaven is closest. We come to paradise. They give you a little studio nestled in the woods. They bring you your lunch in a picnic basket. It's just like paradise for writers. I can't even believe that such a place exists on and I was, but I was away there, and I was I was working on something else, and then I got this idea for this novel, and I began it, and very quickly in the process, I realized that I was about to write about an incredibly personal family story. Ah, horrible, shameful family story. And I began to panic, and I call that my husband and I was hyperventilating and crying. And I said, What am I gonna What What should I do? I have to stop. I'll go back to something else and he said, Just hold your horses. If you feel this way this feeling, this kind of sick nausea, this terror, that is your best sign that what you're writing is exciting and compelling and important. You have to lean into that fear, and you have to figure out a way not to back away. So what do you need to do to figure out t not back away? What do you need to do to give yourself the courage to do that? And so what I said to myself is, I'm not gonna publish it. I'm just gonna right, I'm just write it and I'm not gonna publish it cause I don't need to publish it, But I'll just I'll just get the story out. So that was like a trick. Um, you know, spoiler alert. I published it. Um, there's a wonderful writer named Rebecca Skloot Who is the actions? A nonfiction writer, she's the author of, uh, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and we were hiking one day recently. We're talking about, like, the tricks that we plan themselves ourselves to get ourselves to that place to write. And she told me that she in the book that she's working on now she is actually writing it in her, her daily writing she's doing in her journal program on her computer, the which is a day one program instead of in Scrivener or Microsoft Word or any of the other programs that you she usually uses. And I thought, There it is. That's her trick, right? She's tricking herself into overcoming her fear. She's tricking herself into overcoming that kind of journalists distance so she could get right into the dirty stuff, like she knows that she is writing. But her brain is saying, Oh, this is a diary entry So she's going deep in to the dirt