A little over two years ago I decided to write my memoir.
At first, I planned to write two books (a lofty goal for someone who had not even written one book yet!). I wanted to write a family history for my children and grandchildren about my adoptive family and what I have come to learn about my birth family.
I also wanted to write a book about adoption. I consider myself blessed in that I have been reunited with family members on my birth mother and birth father’s side of my family and I have geneology dating back to the 1600s; not many adoptees can make that claim. I believe that as more of us who were denied basic things like access to our original birth certificates, medical, and geneological history, write about the impact these losses have on us, we become change agents for the future.
I believed Maya Angelou’s words “when we know better we do better” and I wanted to contribute to the collective knowing better.
It wasn’t long before I decided that one book at a time was enough for me to focus on and I shifted all my attention to the adoption memoir. I started with a few vignettes I had written for classes, pulled out photographs and letters, put together a timeline, and considered the story I wanted to tell. I bought a large roll of white paper and put it up on my wall. Then I put photographs of key people on that sheet of paper and made notes and drew lines to illustrate relationships and experiences. I pulled out family trees I had drawn many years ago; I drafted a rough outline.
And then I wrote.
And I am still writing. Here I am over two years later working on the sixth draft. The structure has changed, some of what I wrote in the beginning has been left behind in earlier drafts, I’ve gone down roads I hadn’t originally intended to and I have learned about myself. I have learned a lot about myself.
I don’t know for sure how long it will take to get to the point where I am ready to turn it over to an editor, for that is my planned next step. I set goals for myself, if I miss one I don’t beat myself up about it, I just keep moving forward.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” (Lao Tzu) and the journey toward writing a memoir begins with one word.
How did you begin your current work-in-progress? What reasons did you have for starting? What tools did you use to get started?
I have decided to share pieces of my writing journey here. I hope you will comment; I hope we can get a dialogue going about the process of writing. Whether you write memoir, fiction, or don’t write at all, I invite you to participate in the discussion. We can all teach; we all have something to learn.