Original post on Kathy Pooler’s website: A Memoir Writer’s Journey.
Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes. – Jack Gilbert
Stretching my body to the morning, my eyes, they start to focus. The corners of my mouth curve up when I realize the seconds that linger today are allowed. Minutes pass. My smile becomes a sigh; I turn over, breathe in the quiet space, and celebrate by drifting off again.
Weekends are good to me. They don’t judge when I sleep past 10:00, never require hair and make-up, and the dress code is always casual. Being single and without children, these days are my own, allowing simple pleasures that I cherish. A fresh mug of coffee. A cozy bed. The safety in my solitude. They breathe a tender silence, allowing my mind to dream – and dream, it does – once I am fully awake.
After turning on my laptop (and my brain is finally up), I’m quickly reminded that dreams take work, and that writing this memoir is kind of a pain in the ass. I can hear you now, “why bother writing one, if you’re just going to bitch about it?” If I were the brilliant, literary genius-type, I’d throw you a clever reply. But let’s be real. I’m a drug addict, ex-stripper, recovering narcissist writer, wrapped in a riddle of self-deprecation and vanity. I’m a hot mess who’s been through some shit – from abuse to overdosing. I bother because I’m compelled. And the deeper I plow, the more crystallized my reason: I’m giving purpose to my past, through words I long to say, about a time I can’t forget.
If you told me twenty years ago, I’d be writing a memoir in my 40s, I’d have shot vodka out of my nose, unsuccessfully trying to reign in the laughter. There’s no way I’ll make it to 40. Then I’d read through my journals, crumpled-up cocktail napkins and anything else I scribbled on (in my inebriated, drugged-out state), and agree that if I was still around, I’d want to write about how the hell I possibly could be.
I never thought I’d live this long.
When I wasn’t a total asshole in public, acting very much the entitled rock star, I’d lock myself up for days, snorting blow, drinking wine, staring at my unplugged phone, wondering why no one cared enough to find me. But that’s the nature of addiction – depression disguised as bravery – isolation, a result of wanting to escape.
You’d think writing a story about yourself, for any writer would be easy. I mean, it’s your story. What’s the problem? This reminds me of a quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Just because it’s our story, doesn’t make it easy to tell. Writing a memoir is therapy, and therapy is fucking hard. It’s about owning our bullshit, connecting the dysfunctional dots, and surrendering to the fact that working through our issues is going to take some time. But the only way out is through, so we roll up our sleeves, brave the murky waters, and go in.
After two years of self-promoting in the social media trifecta (blogging, tweeting, Facebooking), I’m realizing that in many ways, I’m just getting started. Sure, there’s meat to my manuscript, but my words are still finding their way, marinating in possibility and structure. And don’t get me started on trimming the fat (the things you read, with a fresh pair of eyes, the morning after an all-night typing bender).
The joys of revising aside, it’s the emotional process of writing my story that’s surprising me the most. Each paragraph unveils more than I ever imagined, illuminating shadows I’ve hidden behind for years.
Re-living moments like waking up with a stranger and wondering where I parked the car are a bit daunting. Also, I’m realizing that cocky, coked-up stripper isn’t the superstar I thought she was. But I keep writing, because with each click of my keyboard, the domino pieces fall – clearing a path of truth, making sense of my past, so that I may forge ahead.
After blowing the lid off my shame (the Internet is good that way), the connections I’ve made are amazing. I’ve received emails (from both men and women with similar stories of abuse, addiction, sex work), thanking me for giving them a voice. There have been interviews, I’m so honored to be a part of, like when I met with LA Talk Radio’s Sophie Venable (MYLF Talk: Make Your Life Fabulous), and talk-show host/author Kirsty Spraggon, an Australian transplant, who’s making a name for herself in the states. Every question I answer is a mirror and a window; helping me to see myself clearly, while allowing the truth to seep in.
I started writing this book, with nothing more than a desire to share some wild memories, which even I can’t believe are true. But as each chapter starts to breathe (and thanks to some kick ass friends – you know who you are), I’m realizing there’s so much more to my story than stilettos and stripper poles.
So begins another weekend, my freshly brewed coffee, and big dreams by my side.
Everybody has a story. And when it’s finally ready, I can’t wait to tell you mine.