Why Write A Memoir?

A little more than a year ago when I finished my memoir, I sent a query letter and a few sample chapters to a publisher—one that promised to respond within sixteen weeks. No acknowedgement arrived. Further, research pointed out that only one in 300,000 manuscripts by “unknown” authors gets accepted by a traditional publishing house. These Many Moons Magnificent was my new-born daughter, albeit, a tiny one. Four years of writing culminated in a book of only 34,000 words. Who would print such a paltry thing? A more important consideration, however, was my reluctance to share my past with strangers. I put the pages in a purple folder, inserted the folder in a plain brown envelope, then secreted the package at the bottom of a deep drawer. Next, I continued to write. Once I had began, I could not stop.

In late December 2019, I published my first blog, “Perfect Meatballs”, a glimpse into my determination to overcome perfectionism. On the next four Sundays, I posted four more tales. During those weeks, I realized I was ready to blog Moons.

Why? Not for imagined riches. I ignored WordPress’s promise that I could earn, earn, earn if I included ads in my blog. A good story is its own advertiser–naive but I want to believe it is true. Further, and gratefully, I do not need money. Nor fame. I am content in my modest life.

One afternoon at the Writers’ Group, I was struggling with a difficult piece of personal history. I said, “Sometimes the writing is painful.”

A member pounced on the admission, “Then why do you do it?”

Before I could formulate a response, a woman answered for me, “Because she has to.”

There was that. But, why did I have to?

Finding Your Answers Within, a book by Dick Sutphen, had found me decades earlier. I decided to look inside—myself, not the book. Quiet moments when beach-walking, forest-bathing, bicycle-riding, or highway-driving provide fertile ground for answer-seeking. On the way home from Writers’ Group that day, auto-pilot kicked in. My mind returned to the aggressive question. Why was I writing a memoir? Before I thought them, three words sprang up—a final expiation. I chuckled. I didn’t know the meaning of expiation. Even so, I remembered a solo winter walk where I asked myself why I blurted out nonsensical words every now and then. Emotional repression spontaneously emerged. The inner wise woman was right then. She must be right now.

Once home, a dictionary pronounced:

expiation (noun)

the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement.

Similar: atonement, redemption, redress, reparation, restitution

For what did I need to atone? One atones for sins. Real sins or imagined sins? Perhaps both.

I knew I had injured people through Emma-like precipitate remarks, an inflexible stand on negotiable issues, and the acting out of fantasies and delusions. But, I had spent years forgiving myself for such transgressions and, where possible, had sought forgiveness from those I had hurt. When painful memories arose, I recited Louise Hay’s mantra,“I did the best I could with the knowledge, awareness and understanding I had at that time.” And similarly “S/he did the best ….” Maybe, there was some deep-seated guilt, real or imagined, that yet plagued me. My response to the message was to keep writing.

A first reader suggested that I publish Moons because it would help others on their self-realization journeys. Certain fragments may inspire some people to embark on Vision Quests, study astrology, participate in Breathwork, or dialogue with a witch. Perhaps. But, just like wealth and fame, self-help was not my motivation in broadcasting the work. For whatever reason, I was now ready to share my story with more than a handful of friends.

In the final analysis, perhaps passion or pleasure propels people to write. Memoir is the most accessible and the most intimate subject matter.

Postscript

Tomorrow, the first two chapters of These Many Moons Magnificent will be published. The book is short; the chapters are short—only one to four pages in length. Even so, as one reader told me, “Prairie, you say a lot with few words.”

Raku moons, Prairie Wakerobin, from a 1994 exhibition