In my One Writer Responds posts, I will attempt to answer the most-asked questions about my writing and my life.
Some readers may have this image of a memoirist sitting in a raggedy bathrobe next to their writing desk, clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels and a framed photo of their loved one as they sob through their memories. I'm not that dramatic. (Okay, I am that dramatic, but I don't smoke and I drink only when I've lost my ability to giggle, which is hardly ever.)
Without a doubt, writing Mad About Hue: A Memoir in Living Color was more challenging than when I wrote my novels. The project began with a series of blog posts, which developed into a book. I had no genie-in-a-bottle nor mentor to guide me through my memories of pain, doubt, anger, shame or frustrations. I just winged it, and at times it was scary, as if I was performing open heart surgery on myself.
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. ~ Anne Lamott
Was I worried that people would be upset because I wrote about them? Not really because my book wasn't written for revenge. And I didn't write Mad About Hue to heal, either, although I believe some healing did take place. I included specific memories in my book because they were true and I had made a personal commitment to be authentic, painful or not.
Sometimes writers embellish their memoirs, which I purposely avoided. Truth is, I was not so concerned about embellishing as I was about remembering. That was my biggest accomplishment, I think, considering I had purposely "forgotten" the shameful and embarrassing stuff. Another achievement was actually finishing the book. With so many emotions to relive, I was exhausted by the time I came to the end!
So how did I survive this ordeal, besides having an ample supply of junk food? In my case, my lifeline was—and still is—Color. So, whenever I felt unsure and needed grounding, I would work or play with the color Red. If I was feeling anxious, I’d turn to Blue. If I needed self-confidence, I would use Yellow. And the great thing about using Color to help you get through the emotional trauma of writing a memoir is that Color is always available, even if you're only imagining it.
Are you thinking about writing your own memoir? For anyone who doubts they can do this, no worries. All they have to do is take a deep breath, get it all out on the page—and keep a box of Kleenex handy!
Click here to order Mad About Hue: A Memoir in Living Color.