Recently, I read an insightful article titled, “The Key Elements of Writing a Good Memoir” by author Adair Lara http://writersdigest.com/article/elements-of-an-effective-arc/. The author’s approach to creating a narrative arc simmers in my mind as I seek to craft my memoir:
“The first step in drawing an arc is to answer this question: What did you (as the narrator/protagonist) want in the story you’re telling? In her book on writing memoir, Your Life as Story, my friend Tristine Rainer calls this the desire line. The struggle to achieve the desire drives the book.”
I cannot stop thinking about these words by Adair Lara. In fact, rarely does an article linger in my thoughts so, as hers did. Perhaps this is because her warning confirms what I don’t want my memoir, or life for that matter, to epitomize:
“You don’t want to write a poor-me book.” Adair Lara so poignantly states.
Ironically, this is the same detriment that Twelve-step recovery empowered me to leave behind, the “poor-me” syndrome. Adair goes on to explain,
“The best memoirs show how human beings change under pressure, not just the bad things that can happen to people. And that change means change in you.”
I savored Adair’s words as if a fine wine. I rolled them around my mental palate, sliding them over and under my tongue before sucking them down into the depths of my soul.
“Yes, yes, yes, yes!” I wanted to scream. Oh how I wish I knew Adair Lara personally. If I did, I would beg her for just one hour together. We would sip fine wine and talk about how I can weave this personal life-theme into my memoir.
Break with fantasy and return to reality noted. Unfortunately, I don’t know Adair Lara so I must wrestle with her words alone in hopes my desire line finally yelps, “I give, I give” and then reveals its identity to me.
When I first began writing my memoir five years ago, my intent was to focus beyond the struggles I endured.
I desired my “experience, strength, and hope,” as the Twelve-step slogan so aptly describes, to help other women find encouragement and courage. Perhaps, I thought, if they knew someone had lived a similar nightmare and triumphed, they just might breathe a little easier and find the hope they sought.
Although terrified, I was willing to share events surrounding the betrayal in my marriage, the shattering of my children’s family, and the loss of their father and my career. But more than that, I wanted to share the amazing transformation that occurred in me as I sought to recover. I hoped that my words would resonate with redemption as I shared about becoming an educator, discovering personal creativity, and pursuing my writing destiny, (I like those “ing” words because they speak of processes leading towards something solid and healing for my soul).
Now five plus chapters into the writing, I realize I lack the knowledge of how to craft such a book. So in the midst of my ineptness, Adair Lara’s article infuses me with hope. So much so that I ordered her book, Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay. I also ordered Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer. I’m excited to learn how to tame this wild manuscript that has escaped its confinement.
Until the books arrive in the mail, I will start my quest to find my “desire line.” Thank you, Tristine and Adair, for providing the missing thread so essential for weaving together the ribbons of my life story.