For 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?