I’ve always kind of bristled when someone posts, “Drop your story,” because I’ve been pondering my story and writing my story for a long time and the knowledge I’ve gleaned has astonished me. I’m not dropping the story of how I got from here —>
Everyone’s mind works in a slightly different way, and the way mine seems to have worked was to hide pertinent information (call it the backstory) from my consciousness so that I’d have to dredge it up and flesh it out through the act of writing memoir.
And then just the other day I heard someone back me up. He said, “Don’t drop your story; simplify it.”
“Dropping assumes there’s no benefit from it. Drop-it, like everything isn’t God. Your story is God too, and the people who want you to drop your story haven’t gotten to the good part.”
“It’s very easy to drop your story when it’s not the good section of the movie. You never get to the greatest part of the movie and say ‘Let’s leave.’ You’re in Act II. You haven’t gotten to Act III yet. Act III is Redemption.”
Act III is Redemption. That would have been enough for me. But he went on a bit about Act III. He said, “Act III is the Cosmic Mission.”
Which he said is you unraveling your conditioning. And when you unravel your conditioning you help other people wake up by communicating the most beautiful words you’ve never heard anyone say to you…”
He then went on about communicating the most beautiful words you’ve never heard anyone say to you, and what it feels like to say them to someone else. This was Matt Kahn in the you tube, The Cosmic Mission: http://youtu.be/FrPmDrlD67Q
So, although I’m not dropping my story, I am simplifying it. That bit was paramount. It didn’t happen overnight. First I had to get in touch with all the confusion again, relive the moments of being swamped by emotions. Relive the not-knowing. Put events in order. Put feelings in order. Do the sorting.
I came into this life with a lot to sort out and deal with. Because I remembered a past life. I remembered I had been someone else, with an existence that preceded my current existence. Then I had to learn to trust again. After the betrayals and the shutting down, I had to learn to open my heart again.
After I’d been working on my first memoir for ten years, writing umpteen revisions after the clouds had parted and the light began to pour through, I started describing what the book was about, both to other people and on paper in the form of a synopsis. The effort propelled me into one ditch after another. It was like taking people into a room I had torn apart in my search for a long-lost key. Though the room was a mess, I held up the key and pointed out the signposts, expecting it to make as much sense to them as it did to me. But my words came out in a jumble. I spoke too fast, the excitement of my discoveries getting in the way of the need to impart information to others.
And this was another key. For it was one thing for me to know the deeper ramifications of my story, and quite another to impart them to someone else. They are two separate things. This was where the art of storytelling came in. In the stepping back. In looking at the big picture. In letting go, getting myself out of the way, so that I could include the audience, the reader. Because they had needs too. So it wasn’t only about me anymore, it was about them too. Bringing them in.
My first book, The Nancy Who Drew, the Memoir That Solved a Mystery, was a labor of love that took fourteen years to bring out. During that time I achieved a great deal of clarity—indeed all the clarity I could muster. But I was still too much in it. With the second book, Part Two, the process has naturally gone much faster. I have been able to step back more, and step back more often. It has been easier to see myself as a soul in a physical body, living out the life of a personality with particular wants and needs. This book two feels like my Act III. I’m glad I stuck it out. Held on. Didn’t drop the ball when the going got tough.
It has been a process of integration. First came the remembering of events. Then the memory of the feelings. Putting the feelings into words. Seeing the parts in terms of the whole. Asking myself what does the reader need to know about this. Answering the reader’s questions as I go along. Because I am now outside of myself. I am me, and not me. I am the one writing the story, and I am you reading it. I am inside of the story while being outside of it too. Book Two feels like the Ph.D. of My Life. I’m glad I didn’t drop the ball or the story. And what’s more, I’m glad I lived it, so that I could tell you about it.