Thursday, April 11, 2013

Writing a Memoir

I mentioned a couple of times that I sat down and wrote a memoir during the time I spent (two years) in Bakersfield. Here is some of what I learned.

First: I learned something while I wrote.  Of course I, and any writer for that matter, learns something while they write.  It's not as though everything is there in perfect prose, sitting and just waiting to be released from the brain.  The writer searches the brain, finds pieces and tidbits, and then tries to put them out there in a form that can be read and understood by the reader--never forgetting that the writer him/herself is the first reader, and the most demanding reader.  The reward for which is learning something that the writer did not know before he/she put the words down on paper.  It always amazes me when it happens.

Second: The mind is not a dangerous thing, as some have alleged; it is memory that is dangerous.  I mean that not in a moral though memory is trying to deceive us or lead us astray.  Often it is trying to protect us--as when it represses incidents that happened to us or that we perpetrated.  But mostly memory is dangerous because there are just too damn many things in there!  And most of them are useless and incapable of enlightening us as to what we were doing or what was happening to us at some point in the past.

Third: I learned that what I could not forget is what I needed to pay attention to the most.  It was not the buried, repressed memories; it was rather what was staring me right in the face!  Spoiler alert: what I could not forget, until I faced it head on in the memoir, was that I was a priest.  But if you read the memoir (coming out sometime this fall as an e-book) expecting a long detailed and very messy description of the soul-searching, guilt-ridden, ex-priest who could never get past that period in his life, you will be disappointed. For at some point during the writing I made the decision to resign from the ex-priesthood, in much the same manner as I had resigned from the priesthood.

Fourth: I learned that there is a difference between who I am to myself and who I am to others.  This is what helped me get past being an ex-priest.  For to myself I was, am, and always will be a reader, writer, reflecter. I was never a priest to myself. I was a priest to others at one period; but I could very well have been a TV repairman for all the difference it made to me.  What I am to others now, a parent, is what I was called to be to others.  I can never resign from that!

If any of this makes sense to you, then, as they say, read the book.

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