Thursday, 21 February 2013

Run that by me again...

One of the problems about working on an autobiography (after you get over the idea that it's just a vanity project) is actually working through memories - particularly remembering moments when I was unkind, or unfair, or just plain stupid.

The process reminds me of Castaneda's 'recapitulation', or psychoanalysis, or even that thing the Scientologists do, with an e-meter, where they make you work through upsetting emotional memories over and over again, until they have no more influence on you.  Flat-lining, I guess.  NLP also has various ways of reworking memories and traumas to remove the continuing influence.

I have memories where my toes still curl with embarrassment, for instance, or I get pale or flushed. 

So, along with the delightful memories of better times, moments I wish could have lasted for ever, I also have to confront all these flawed behaviours and incidents and choices. 

Even worse, in describing them, do I put myself down, laugh at myself, or try to justify them?   And do I even have the ability to do that? 

I know my mother used to dismiss my attempts at explanation, as often as not, as though it equalled refusing responsibility for my waywardness.

I am enjoying the process, but it has turned out much slower than just making up stories about imaginary people!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Out Of Order

In working on the autobiography (tales for the grand-children) I seem to have got stuck somewhere, and it appears to be before I was born!

I started studying the Second World War (from which I emerged) with very thin pickings in terms of family legends, and have become involved in the details, rather than the big picture...

I won't go into those details now (vegetarian ration books?  Was my dad too old for call-up, or a conscientious objector who became a fireman in The Blitz?  What was the work my mother was doing, welcoming refugees, entertaining in the underground bomb shelters, etc?)

I am also trying to avoid a particular shape that I have noticed in many autobiographies:
  • Start with a high point, the part of the story people may have heard about, or want to hear about.
  • Next, the chapter many readers may skip, the dry research of great-grandparents, etc, with few enlivening tales to brisk up the family tree and bits of social history
  • Early days, leading to school and those future glimpses (little did he know...)
  • Back up the tree, by luck or hard work, to the peak experience of the exciting opening chapter (which I have already told you about...)
  • Life since that heady time
I can feel myself nodding off, just at the thought.

Apart from the obvious problem about how much you can say about still-living people, I still can't resolve how much should be about me, and a unique perspective, and how much about my generation, my country, and so on.

I may have to set myself some kind of target, a daily word minimum, which works so well when writing NaNoWriMo novels.

And then I get bored with my own anecdotes, and want to go back to that fiction I wrote last November...

And there's 300 words I will never see again!