The Kid In You

578302_10200636421131581_2145275934_n - Version 2For my writing group yesterday, I took an early chapter of my memoir for them to critique.  A chapter I first wrote it in present tense, then rewrote it in past tense, and then rewrote a few more times until I figured out:

(a) what in the hell the chapter is really about, because we all know it’s never about what we think it’s about the 1st (or even 5th) time around, and

(b) after all that work, if it even belongs in the book.

Sometimes I feel like I’m writing in one big fat circle, ring around the rosie and we all fall down.

After the hour of my critique was over, I confessed to the group how much I hate writing about my childhood, how much harder it is than writing about being a grownup, how meticulous it is to get inside, and stay inside, my 5 or 8 or 12 year old head.  How strange to keep reliving it on the page.  Not only am I trying to get the facts and the atmosphere right (40 years later, with no notes) but I feel like I’m using the biggest magnifying glass I can find to see what, if anything, that day or that week or that summer of that little girl’s story has to do with “the” story.

There are people who write multiple books using the flotsam of their kidhoods.  Bless them.  But I’m thinking one round is going to be enough for me.  As one of my fellow writers said so eloquently yesterday, “I lived that shit once, and once was enough.”

How do you write about — or avoid writing about — the kid in you?

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17 thoughts on “The Kid In You

    1. Teri Post author

      The comment on your blog this morning about printing out your manuscript because you were losing (the will to live) track MADE MY DAY.

  1. somindful

    I have been so centered on writing about my present and recent adult life that I rarely embark on my childhood. Bless you for going there! Keep on.

  2. joplingirl

    My childhood consciousness is my only true treasure. The informing and in-sighting incident for every single narrative imaginable. As has been true for so many writers–some call it memoir, others autobiographical fiction. I respect any writer who knowingly goes there and comes back with treasure to share.

    1. Teri Post author

      I respect anyone who even attempts it.

      And I’ve been up since 4 am, so I originally read your last sentence as “who knowingly goes there and comes back alive,” so thanks for inadvertently making me laugh (at myself).

  3. Averil Dean

    I fictionalize it. I change the facts but try to access the emotion, which is about all I’m capable of. I wish it could be more, because childhood is one of my favorite topics as a reader.

    1. Teri Post author

      The access of the emotion. Ahhhhh, yes. And there’s nothing better to read than a writer who can wrangle the reality of childhood experience (of all kinds) on the page, as art.

  4. girl in the hat

    I used to fictionalize it, but now I don’t have time. It seems like most of my stories are about a 10, 11, 12 year old girl. I keep hoping I’ll work through it and start writing about adults some day.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m certainly drawn to stories about girls that age … 10, 11, 12, right before puberty hits full blast. Anyone who can write well about childhood, their own or fiction, gets kudos from me. I love to read it.

  5. jpon

    I don’t think I could ever bring myself to write directly about my childhood, but it sure comes through in some of my stories.

    1. Teri Post author

      I started out writing all of my (now) chapters as stand-alone essays. It’s fascinating, and more than a little scary, how much the childhood details affect the adult stories/decisions/reactions. I wake bolt-upright at night with these connections. Remind me to never, never do this again.

  6. Lyra

    I could only do it in fiction and then I only do certain things well. I have trouble with a naive innocent sort, but can dig into the child introverted-panic mode. But whenever it gets too close to home, I bolt. I’m working on that.

  7. JustAnotherEmpress

    I’ve written about my childhood a bunch. But not lately. One piece of mine that was published years ago was just retrieved by my father a few weeks ago (when he Googled me. Jesus. And you wonder why I’m an Empress in these comments…). He called all freaked out because I’d chronicled a horrific incident from my childhood where he nearly killed us in a fit of road rage. “Do you hate me?” he wanted to know.

    I admire you so much for writing that hard stuff and seeing it through.

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