After coming from a painful encounter last week, least of which was seeing my uncle in a coma and his family–especially my younger cousins–in so much grief and pain, I decided that I was going to channel a lot of my hurt and emotions-in-process into a book. Unlike the memoir which was already half-written, I thought that this project should be written in fiction, perhaps through a novel.
So one morning, while doing my Morning Pages, I laid out the basic characters and plot. I read up on fiction-writing tips. I psyched myself up and told myself that it could be done.
Until of my my writing idols, Tweet Sering (Astigirl), messaged me this morning and sent THIS LINK.
It was a blog post by Ashley Dartnell, author of a memoir called Farangi Girl, about “growing up in Iran during the time of the Shah”. She has this to say about her memoir-writing experience, to which I could totally, absolutely relate:
… I knew that by not writing the book honestly, I would deprive my parents of a legacy to their extraordinary lives. Plus, as a writer, I believed that it was a great story and that if I could capture it, I would have a book that was gripping and could change people’s lives. For someone as passionate about books and reading as I, this was powerful.
I knew that fictionalising wasn’t an option—the people who were sensitive would still be hurt regardless of whether it was a memoir or fiction. And finally, the painful bits, the sad bits, the shameful bits—the bits my family wouldn’t want revealed—I felt that these are what make a life and we no longer live in a world where people believe that any life is immune from pain or mistakes. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t worried about revealing our family secrets, just that I had thought through the implications. So, I followed Blake’s [Morrison, Dartnell’s writing teacher and author of the memoirs When Was the Last Time You Saw Your Father and Things my Mother Never Told Me] advice and I wrote the book that was true to my life. And of course, probably predictably, it was the right decision because even just a few weeks after publication, I know that the book resonates with many people. Every day I receive emails, texts and messages telling me how moved people are and how much they relate to the book. Having said that, there are still moments when I feel a sharp prick of guilt and I quickly say, ‘Sorry Mom, sorry Dad’…
One big reason why I still cannot write my memoir is that it is bound to hurt some people–especially some whom I love and care about very deeply. But I also wonder how long I can keep all of this bottled up inside of me, when I know that a large part of my healing–and, perhaps, the healing of others like me–is to share the story and make good use of the gifts with which I have been bestowed.
To fictionalize or to write a memoir? It is a question I will keep asking myself. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll start writing the stories anyway.
P.S. Thanks to Tweet Sering for that dose of inspiration! To know more about Tweet and her books, visit her website, DotheRightThing.ph.