Musings from memoir-land

Dear Reader, it has been an eventful time (London! Liverpool! COVID! Glasgow!) and I have been remiss on updating you on memoir progress, which has led some to surmise I have stopped.

I reached the 100k word count (yay!) at almost the same point that I realised the degree of difficulty of the enterprise (boo!) – no, that’s not quite true. I knew certain parts were going to be tricky, but answering the ‘What were you thinking?’ query is proving difficult to be able to answer in a way that is full, honest and makes a conveyable kind of sense. Sometimes, in life, you are only vaguely aware of why you or others are doing things: sometimes, it is only in retrospect, with reconstruction, that you can see the tapestry and not the stitching, but to write a memoir the answer cannot be ‘Nothing/Ten Different Things/I Don’t Really Know.’

The complicating factor of trauma is that the techniques you learn to survive it aren’t very helpful in trying to describe its impact on you. Mentally vacating the room, for example, is exactly what you need to do when you’re stuck in a situation you can’t physically escape; but describing that process, and what led to you needing to mentally vacate the room, without either glossing over it or depressing the bejesus out of the reader – well, it’s harder than it seems.

And then: what do you do with the happy bits? Like, you know, ABBA. Well, music in general. Writing about any life attunes you (ha) to the through-lines both of pain and joy. For me, music has been an enriching delight, and I remain grateful for who gave me the love of music – my mother, Mrs Sally Christmass, our wonderful music teacher and choir conductor, and ABBA, my pop-music gateway. To my great surprise, I am now an enthusiastic intermediate student of cello, in spite of physical conditions that once would have prevented me, and rehearsing with my musical-partner-in-broken-consorting, Nikki Jones. Again, how to describe the role music, and the friendships forged in music, has had without inducing eye-rolls in a reader?

The only way out is through, in writing and in life, and so I am writing and re-writing, paring and shaping.

And: if you get the chance to go to the ABBA Voyage concert in London, you’d be hard pressed to find more joy in one place.