Memoir Writing: Is It the Journey or the Destination?

by Matilda Butler on August 9, 2016

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #114 – Memoir Writing and Healing – Matilda Butler

Consider Your Attitude Toward Memoir Writing: Journey? Destination?

Clarifying how we feel about writing is especially important. Our attitude often directs our work. And more importantly, understanding our attitude can make memoir writing a more satisfying process.

What do I mean? Let me begin with an example.

Memoir Writing My garden in the Pacific Northwest was completely out of control. It wasn’t so much due to wild growth as due to neglect. Yes, simple neglect. So many women love their gardens, love getting their hands in the soil, love pulling weeds, love nurturing new plants. My mother was one of these. When I asked her to tell me about her favorite activities as a child, she replied, “I pulled weeds in the vacant lot next door.” Wow. I was not expecting that.

Memoir writing and reflectionI’m simply not one of those who likes the process of gardening. Oh sure. I love a garden. I have many sword ferns and numerous Oregon grape bushes (not related to edible grapes). The winter-blooming hellebore is a special treat and one I didn’t know about during my years of gardening in California. So yes, gardens are wonderful. Looking out on my garden each day, I find beauty and peace. Our garden provides a home for deer and somedays we have six resting peacefully except for the occasional twitch of an ear.

I want to be clear. What I really enjoy is the finished garden. The well-trimmed garden. The weeded garden. In other words, I like the destination of the garden in good shape.

memoir writingWhat I don’t enjoy is the journey, the process of weeding, of trimming brown fronds, of clearing crisp, dead leaves that have clustered around the base of plants. I know. I know. It is supposed to be about the journey and for many people gardening is. But over the years, I’ve come to understand my own feelings and attitudes. It is valuable to acknowledge how I feel. I can be gentle on myself when I am not eager to get started on a long gardening session. Why? Because I understand that I just need to work through the process so that I can arrive at a destination that I really do enjoy. I don’t have to make myself enjoy the journey. That’s just not who I am. When I need to do the weeding and trimming, I hold the image of the well-manicured garden in my mind. This helps me move forward.

Attitudes about Memoir Writing

Your attitudes toward memoir writing can either facilitate or interfere with your accomplishments. Take time to consider how you feel about writing. Do you sit and enjoy seeing how memories come together? Do you like to write and reflect even when the memories are painful because you understand the process can be healing? Then you are someone who can focus on the journey.

If you are a destination person, then sitting to write may be difficult for you. You want to see the outcome. If you are more this type of person, then set small destination goals so that you can have the satisfaction of achievements that are important to you. Think of a destination of one well-written story. Think of the destination of a finished chapter.

Everyone needs to consider the balance between the journey and the destination. But if you are really one type versus the other, then acknowledge this and create your writing life to maximize the goals that satisfy you. This may be the way to get the most from your writing.

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