It’s riveting. It’s exciting. If I wanted to, I probably could make it read like a thriller. Yet, here’s a conversation I have at least once a week.
A friend says, “How’s your memoir coming along?”
“Which one?” I ask, hoping this friend is asking about the other one, the one I’m writing that I don’t hate. But it’s seldom that one.
“The one about your hidden inheritance.”
“My Mother’s Money?” I ask in a tone designed to discourage further probing.
“I hate it.”
“Why? I can’t wait to read what comes next. It’s very suspenseful.”
“Well, yes. It’s a good story. But I hate writing it,” I reply.
It’s probably a persistent peril of memoir writing—the fact that you, the writer, already know the (sordid) story, and how it turns out. You’ve lived it. And it’s strangely both upsetting and boring to relive it through your work.
When I mentioned on Twitter that I hate the memoir I’m writing, I got more immediate responses than for anything else I’ve ever tweeted. One published writer even said hating her story is one of the reasons she won’t write her memoir.
It’s seems that disgust with the manuscript-in-progress is a predictable phase (along with doubt) we must endure in the course of writing. (Afterward, along comes profound embarrassment at the book’s flaws, no matter how much acclaim it garners.)
But, this is different. This isn’t a question of quality. This is trial by memory—more like, “How many times do I have to think about this lousy, although ultimately enriching, experience?” with a little bit of “Maybe I should just tell people what happened and not write about it” thrown in.
Now I’m in the research phase of the memoir. I’m going through my journals, emails, and accordion files to remind myself of the sequence of events: When did this lawyer tell me he never got paid for work he did for my siblings and me just after our mother died? When did that lawyer call me out of the blue to offer to help us get another portion of our inheritance money—at a steep percentage for himself. I’m looking at real drudgery.
So how do I get past this ennui?
I’ve got a few strategies to kick myself beyond my bad attitude. I’ll share them in a later post on this subject. See When You Hate the Book You’re Writing, Part 2, to read what another writer says about hating her book.
If you’re hating your manuscript, whatever it is, and wherever you are in the process, please share your troubles and triumphs in the comments!
Find out more about My Mother’s Money: A Memoir of Suspense.