I don’t write about personal things in my blog. I don’t write about my school (much) or my friends (not because I don’t love them) or even my family all that much (they’re just too cool for that, for real). That’s not what blogs should be for, in my personal opinion. Humanity invented diaries for a reason. Unless you’re Anne Frank, I really don’t feel like the entire world needs to read about your personal life. Personally.
However, as a writer, I must confess to the common yet sometimes unforgivable crime of writing about people I know in my books.
There’s a subtle way to do it, of course. Name changes, shifting facts around, maybe even changing hair or eye color. Personalities usually don’t vary too much, since that’s usually why a writer might feel the need to convert a real-life person into a fictional character in the first place. You can’t be sneaky with the names, though. Don’t make “Jake” into “Drake” or “Holly” into “Molly.” Not okay.
While some might do this to get back at people for being mean/rude/unprofessional/horrible, I’ve never done that. I’m very quick to forgive, and though I never forget (who does?), I’m not here to gossip about people with an author’s disguise on or do unto jerkfaces as they’ve done to me. I’ve only ever done it with friends, mentors, maybe even family on occasion. People that have built me up, made me stronger, acted as my support and never left me for sorrow.
That’s why writing this memoir is giving me a headache.
“So why don’t you stop,” you want to type in the comments, “if it’s so painful?”
Because a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do.
Why is this the hardest thing I’ve ever had to sit down and write? Because I don’t get to make anything up (I’m not that kind of non-fiction writer). I don’t get to decide the ending, or if the main characters break up and then make up again. I don’t get to choose whether two roommates got along or fought, or whether friends stayed friends or drifted apart. I have to write the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. This is how the book begins (before the first line, a note to the world):
“I promise to tell the truth, the whole story, every detail I can and can’t recall. I promise I won’t pretend to be anything I’m not or say things I don’t mean. And I promise, you won’t be sorry you gave this all a second chance.”
Is this targeted toward anyone specific? No. This is my promise, the promise I made before I even wrote the first words of my story. As I’ve said since the beginning, it’s not supposed to be easy, digging down deep and reliving all the things I’ve tried to hard to forget. But as I’ve also said, I never forget. It’s a matter of being brave, of going back to those dark places, of re-experiencing those moments I thought were too much to handle the first time. No one has to go through that. No one should ever be forced to face their past. But if you don’t, how will you ever really discover who you’re supposed to be?
Don’t ask, “Who am I?” You’re never someone in the present-tense, because the present is always changing. You were someone, you’ve become someone else, but you’ll be come someone entirely different in the future. It’s not a constant line, no straight edges or predictable outcomes here. You’ve been broken, you’ve come a along way, but you still have a long way to go.
That’s how I personally define strength – realizing how far you have climbed but knowing there’s always more mountain you can conquer if you’re ready to go.
I won’t stop climbing, no matter the altitude. Writing a memoir, at 21, hurts. But believe me, it will all be worth it. It will all be worth the struggle.