On Writing (and my memoir)

I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know my head. All my life, my thoughts have been ferocious and loud, clanging inside my skull, daring me to control them.

All my life, I’ve understood that they’d calm if I could pull them out like Professor Dumbledore with his sieve, reaching in and plucking forth the silver slither of a thought. Writing is like that for me. It’s bearing forth what’s rattled in me, setting it under the light and taking a good look at it. It’s scientific work.

I remember being fourteen years old and reading Song of Songs over and over in my bedroom, writing long treatises to Jesus about my insecurities and all those boys and how much I dreamed of one of them having a kind enough heart to notice me. Me in my wild-teethed, large-mouthed awkwardness. I knew if I couldn’t get the words down, I’d never be able to say it. And I knew I had to say it to Jesus. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be whole.

I’ve always been extroverted. I’ve always been “nice.” I’ve always been A Good Girl.  But my inner life has been a separate space, a place where a lot of fear lived tangled up beside the courage. A place where metaphors spoke louder than realities. There the world runs in pictures and stories and meticulous details. It’s never been easy to pull those details out of my mouth. I could never come up with anything to say in college class discussions, even when it came to my favorite courses, Women in Literature and Contemporary Women Poets. Some people have a short electrical current running from brain to tongue. Their words arrive quick and impressive. Those people earn themselves titles like “intellectual” and “interesting.” My thoughts work and work inside and then they fight to come out. And even then, the pulling forth is painful. Writing is sometimes extraction.

Writing this book is lonely. My husband has always been my prime reader but right now he is the Other Character in this drama and reading my interpretation of him is tender work. We both put it off. Plus, we’re all exhausted and the boys are wild and sweaty and we’ve got to fill their bellies and wash their bodies and kiss their faces and tickle their ribs and get them to bed. And once that work is done, I don’t want to shove my manuscript under his face and wait for his response. Let’s put it off another day. Let’s talk about something else. Sometimes we chat about the book and I tell Chris how annoyed I am with my two-years-ago-self who can’t stop whining in this book. Whine Whine Worry Worry Pray, I say the book goes. Rinse and Repeat.

Sometimes I say, “I wrote something that I never knew I believed today,” and we talk about it, my husband telling me what I was like two years ago, reminding me how far we’ve traveled, the two of us.

It’s lonely work, the punching of keys and the mirror gazing of memoir writing. I hate myself in this book. I love myself. I’m annoyed by myself. I’m proud of myself. And then a little boy busts free from his babysitter and runs into my office begging to watch a show or in the background I hear a little one sobbing for his mama and I think: Is it worth it? Dredging all this up? Is it worth every hour I haven’t spent with these boys so I can pull out the thought that was so cloudy and noisy in my head and now looks like a butterfly on cement, sad but also kind of beautiful?

What I’m trying to say is that I have no choice. I have always been writing and my mind has always been writing me. And someday the two of us might meet in the middle and understand one another, like twins separated at birth and raised in far off cultures, who see each other across a crowded market, and know they’ve come home.

Image Source: entrospeck at Flickr

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    So beautiful friend. The last two paragraphs made me hold my breath in amazement and understanding. Thank you.

  • http://www.gabbingwithgrace.com/ Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    I know it is worth it. and I try to remember that myself, that my kids won’t remember those few times I pulled away & said “i must write, go play!” But, I understand the hardness of it…this was me all of last year plucking away at my memoir, feeling all of the sadness & shame of my early childhood and wondering why I am torturing myself this way. Yet, even if I never finish editing it, and even if I never get an agent and *gasp* even if I never find someone who will actually publish it, the journey as been worth it. I have never seen God’s graces so clearly, his love so strong as when I read back on that story and wonder how that little girl survived. And then of course, that’s not to mention the gift it may be to others who read it….eventually. So yes, I’d love to encourage you as a lonely memoirist myself, to keep pushing into it & keep going & yes it will be a gift to you and your family. (And me!) Also, I’ve only ever let my hubby read one chapter, so wow! But then he’s not in the book at all, but still, i’m impressed! =) Rock on, M! You got this.

    • michaboyett

      You are the coolest, Grace. Thanks friend.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    That last paragraph is so me. Press on, friend.

  • http://twitter.com/katiengibson Katie Noah Gibson

    This resonates so deeply. Thank you, friend.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    There is so much that we have to sacrifice to write, but since it is a calling, you can’t just ignore it. So we make sacrifices and struggle to balance our writing time with family time and whatever else. It’s worth it, but it has a cost like anything else that is worth doing. Writing a book is not to be taken on lightly!

    And also, I’m so glad you’re writing and wrestling through this. The world is a much better place with you writing blog posts and books!

    • michaboyett

      Thanks for the kind words, Ed. I’m grateful for this sweet community of writers (like you!) cheering me on.

  • Carolyn Callis

    Oh, Micha! I cannot wait to read your book. I believe that the story that you have to tell will be so much more than a butterfly on the sidewalk! And yet our stories wouldn’t have depth without the sad, painful, awkward parts. Thanks for being willing the dredge them all up for the sake of writing. I believe in you!

  • http://twitter.com/caramac54 Cara Meredith

    I read this last week and neglected to respond….my bad. But thank you – always – for your honesty and your heart and your stories. Can’t wait to Flora Grub-it with you soon soon soon!


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