Why writing this memoir is a pain in the ass

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.

13 thoughts on “Why writing this memoir is a pain in the ass

  1. “I’m giving purpose to my past, through words I long to say, about a time I can’t forget.”

    Thank you C, you just gave me the answer that has always alluded me when people ask how I can possibly write publicly about my addiction, about being being raped as a boy and other very personal details on my blog and in a future memoir of my own.

    It is nearly impossible for someone who hasn’t experienced these kind of things to understand why we MUST come clean and SPILL our guts about such a life. It isn’t a choice…you use the word compelled and that works for me as well.
    I have answered the question why I write as i do by saying: “To save my ass” and that is accurate as well but your answer covers that answer because it is the “giving purpose” part that keeps the “Hell-Hounds” off my trail and stamps down the demon in my head that constantly repeats that I am worthless and un-deserving of life….there was a time I bought that LIE and went down the Suicide Trail, fortunately I took a wrong fork in the road and survived.

    And the price, so to speak for survival is I have to write….

    Great post as always C…thanks so much for what you do, you speak loudly and clearly for the silent MANY!


  2. Christine,

    Your candor, courage and sense of humor in this post, both here and on my blog are resonating all over cyberspace as evidenced by the heartfelt responses in both places. Sharing your story so honestly and showing how memoir writing is a long-term process requiring patience, persistence and bravery as well as a healthy sense of humor is so valuable. In opening your own floodgates, you are giving the rest of us permission to do the same with our own “secret” stories. Thank you for all the pearls… “my words are still finding their way,marinating in possibility and structure; each paragraph unveils more than I ever imagined, illuminating shadows I’ve hidden for years; clearing a path of truth.etc” Very gripping and inspiring.

    Thanks for the mention and link.I’m thrilled to feature you on my blog this week and wish you continued healing and success in publishing your long awaited memoir. I have no doubt it will touch many in a healing way.:-)

    Blessings and Hugs,



  3. “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.” Love it, Christine! I absolutely love it. I couldn’t empathize with you more on this post. I agree, “Blowing the lid off the shame” is truly a freeing experience. In fact, I think brutal honesty is my new addiction. I’m so glad to have met you on here and I cannot wait until your book gets published. I can tell just by this small article, that it is going to be nothing short of genius. If it’s okay with you, I’m going to reblog this on my own site, http://www.portraitsofaddiction.com. I think this is something that my followers will really enjoy. I certainly did. Thanks for posting, keep up the writing, and please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you with the promotion of what’s sure to be a bestseller.


  4. Reblogged this on portraits of addiction and commented:
    I wanted to reblog this post by my new “writing buddy” Christine Macdonald. She is currently working on a memoir about her struggles as a drug addict and ex-stripper. Like most us writers, she began with a story to tell and a desire to share it. What were once just small seeds buried in the back of her subconscious have now blossomed into full bouquets of rich, compelling, and truthful drama. I’m so glad to have had the pleasure of meeting Christine. I have a feeling her memoir is going to be one of those books we’ll be talking about for years to come.


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