If I did maybe I would

Posted on 4 July 2011

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If I was going to write a memoir, I wonder where I would start.

I wonder if I would start with my first memory and work my way forward in time from there. I wonder if I could remember things properly and how many arguments I would have with my sisters because they would remember things differently. I wonder how often I would write a vignette only to have my parents or aunties or uncles or cousins would correct me and I’d have to write it all over again.

If I was to start with my first memory, that would be the one where I’m about a year and a half old and my mother is holding me in the crook of her right arm while she dusts the corners of the ceiling with a rainbow feather duster. She explains what she’s doing and I point at the duster to show I understand. I’ve decided I’m a year and a half old in this memory because we still live in the Little House, my mother isn’t so pregnant with my next sister that she can’t pick me up, and I’m communicating through pointing the way one-year-olds do.

Although if I started there, I don’t know what would come next. Probably to my memories of building the Big House which was finished when I was two and four months. They’re patchy and disjointed so I don’t know where they would lead.

I wonder how my family would feel about becoming characters in a book. I wonder how I would feel writing about my experience of my family when I knew they were going to read it.

I wonder how much I would use the journals I’ve been keeping solidly since I was seventeen and patchily since I was about ten. I’m not sure I could go back and read any of them. On the rare occasions I look at them I end up cringing a lot at the melodrama, self-indulgence and superfluous adjectives. Which is what journals are for, but not published things.

If I ever wrote a memoir, I wonder how much of the reason I’d do it would be self-indulgence. I wonder if people would laugh at me or roll their eyes or think I’d got ideas above my station as an ordinary person with ordinary challenges and everyday triumphs.

I wonder if colleagues and clients would see me differently, if I would lose work or gain it, if I would get invited to speak at events about the thrills and dangers of public disclosure. I wonder what my therapist would think and how many extra Twitter followers I would get.

If I wanted to write a memoir, I think it would be easier to hire a typist and an editor, hand over fifteen years of journals and let them have at it.

Image credit: Memory by Chris Sinjakli under a Creative Commons Attribution licence
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Posted in: Writing