Last Sunday Ken Budd published a great article on writing memoirs in the NY Times.
Writing a memoir is a selfish act. For the memoir to work, to truly be alive, the honesty of the writing must outweigh the feelings of your subjects. As the central figure, you have to write what scares you: the drama resides in the dark places where you’re least comfortable. And that means exposing yourself. It’s like ripping off the front of your house and saying, “O.K., here we are, take a look — I’ll be in the shower if you want a closer view.” If you can’t do that — if you’re unwilling to bleed, naked, on the page — why write memoir?
As you know I’m working on a memoir myself, and the conflict Ken Budd describes is very real. There are details that I am sure some would rather leave out. Yet, those really are the details that bring the story to life.
If the purpose of the story is to save a life, isn’t that worth a little pain?
Is telling a story worth hurting someone close to you?
There is no clear-cut answer here. How much and what kind of pain is subjective. What seems to be ’embarrassing’ to me could very well be ‘mortifying’ to another.
Yet I keep coming back to the fact that it could not possibly be greater than the pain of a loss prevented.