With my newly minted MFA in hand (well, the actual diploma is stashed in a kitchen cupboard) and my memoir, Architect of the Asylum, completed (well, as completed as one can say a manuscript is before the "real" revisions begin), I ought to feel like a proud and happy camper. Right? Hmmm . . . In truth, I'm not sure how I feel. Conflicted, certainly.
Memoir does that to a person. Stirs up the remembered past and gets it all conflated with the present. Not to mention the future. One wise professor had this word of caution: The way you ultimately put your carefully-crafted personal story on the page becomes the way you'll remember it. It becomes your past, your truth.
So? Okay. Fine, I thought. At first.
Now, having come to the end of the process, the powerful chickens in her statement have come home to roost. And they're causing me to tremble at their astonishing heft. Like the dazzling color of a wild butterfly glimpsed in flight, your remembered past -- so artfully captured and recomposed -- acquires a slightly dimmed sheen, a static quality, once pinned to the page. By the time you finish the dirty deed, you realize you've killed the thing. Had to.
My advice to would-be memoirists is this: Handle your memories gently. Be prepared, in the end, to say good-bye to them. And write the story you can live with for the rest of your days.