Today, I’m going to describe the first of the 7 stages of memoir writing: Wanting to Write. This stage actually lasted a full decade and a half for me.
Yeah. Kind of pathetic, I know.
But I always had a good excuse for not sitting down and writing! You see, I was working, I was raising kids, I was working and raising kids. Too busy. Too tired. Not inspired today.
I’m sure you’re familiar with all the excuses.
But the good news is this stage eventually did come to an end. So, those of you who’ve been thinking about writing for a long time, don’t feel discouraged. Just because you’ve done the same thing every day for seventeen years doesn’t mean you can’t wake up and do something different one day. I’ll share my “inciting incident” later in this series.
And, looking back on it, I think a lot of important mental work got done during those years of “wanting to write,” despite not much of it being written down.
Or maybe I’m just rationalizing. Here’s the story — I’ll let you be the judge.
Stage 1. Wanting to Write
In 1999, my mom started showing me drafts of her memoir about growing up in World War II Philippines, Birthdays in the Cemetery. It was an amazing narrative, rich with sensory details of Filipino food, culture, and history. She told her story of overcoming poverty and deprivation with gentle humor and a generous spirit, turning what could have been depressing into an uplifting and fascinating historical memoir.
She inspired me to start writing my own memoir. I had a story I wanted to tell. Since childhood and on into my early 20s, I’d been incredibly timid and fearful, afraid of driving, getting in elevators, talking to strangers, even of climbing ladders. You name it, I was scared of it.
But by 1992, I’d learned to fly and become an aerobatic champion, representing the United States in international competition, flying loops, spins, and snap rolls.
Yes, I risked my life doing things most people would never dream of. Every day.
How did I overcome my crippling fears to end up winning a medal for the US at the World Aerobatic Championships?
And, maybe more importantly, what impact did choosing to face my fears have on the rest of my life?
I wanted to tell that story.
A Slow Start
So I sat down at my computer and typed out a short piece about my childhood.
Over the next decade and a half, I wrote scattered vignettes from my early years. And I thought about the memoir a lot. I told lots of people I was writing the story of my life.
Every now and then, I’d write a few pages when I felt particularly inspired. By 2014, I’d produced maybe 7000 words taking me up through age 8.
It was going to take me a LONG time to get to age 25, to the day I stepped into a cockpit for the first time.
Clearly, something wasn’t working.