Monday, August 2, 2010

Why writing memoir is hard

I really admire people who can pull off a successful memoir (success = skillful execution) because I don't know how they do it.  I am long-winded by nature (I think in multi-volume, epic plots and can't do much with short stories to save my life).  It is extremely difficult for me to figure out how to take, say, a 450 page spiritual autobiography and turn it into a svelte 200 page memoir. 

How do you know when to start?  How do you know what to cut? And most importantly, how do you know when to end it?

". . . You're searching, Joe,
For things that don't exist; I mean beginnings.
Ends and beginnings--there are no such things.
There are only middles."
-"In the Home Stretch" 
by Robert Frost
I read that and blessed dear departed Mr. Frost again.  He was amazing.  He puts things in words I've been wanting to say but can't until I stumble across a new (to me) poem.  Did he ever write a memoir?

Anyway, that quote explains the reason why it's so hard for me to write a good, succinct, complete memoir.  I don't feel like things ever end/stop in my life, and I'm not at the place yet where I can see enough of the bigger picture to see how to craft a stopping point that I am comfortable with (comfortable = no "if I leave that out, it feels dishonest" moments).  
I'm not sure where things begin, either, but that's a lesser concern because I feel like it's the ending I need to stick first.  All my other questions can be answered and addressed if only I know where the end is.  
Maybe this is some subtle form of procrastination, but I don't think so because anything that generates hundreds of pages is obviously not afraid to get work produced.  
Maybe this is why it's easier to write an autobiography when you are old (or have it written for you after you are dead).  Death is an ending it's hard to argue with.  However, I don't think it would solve the problem of knowing when to begin if you wanted a short work.  :)  Sigh.

Content to be in the middles, 

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