Writing Schicksal, I had to portray my maternal grandfather. I had grown up with one perspective: my mother’s. What if she had it wrong?
Memoir, from the memory, should be based on truth. It is what we believe or remember to be the case. My grandfather, long gone, could not be asked about his motives. He made a hard call which cost him his daughter’s love.
For months, I wrestled with my conscience. How could I portray him without damaging his credibility as a person. I had a moral responsibility to present a balanced point of view. If a harsh decision was made, why? Why did he make it?
Historical research helped me to step into his shoes. Maybe he wasn’t just a harsh, heartless man but someone driven into a corner by circumstances. Maybe he didn’t have any support. Did pride stop him asking for help? Or did he not know how?
I thought about it a lot, tossing and turning at night. In the pre-dawn stillness, I looked out the window hoping to find a resolution. My mother carried a massive childhood hurt. Although I loved her, maybe her perspective was that of an injured child and an angry unforgiving adult.
From here I moved forward, story and back story enriching my writing.
My second novel, tentatively titled 24″ Waste, has also provided a moot point. A novel based on my experiences, adolescent anorexia, contains a particularly painful breach of trust. It took me a lot of soul-searching to go there. Research has shown that this breach of childhood trust is common in the later development of anorexia.
Unfortunately, it had to be included.
I wrote and rewrote and amended the passage . It made me tired, crushingly tired. Again, I had to view the glitch from the other person’s perspective. It is easier when the protagonist is not you! The situation now 45 years old needed to go. I sat with it, not to comfortably at first. It centred on forgiveness.
Had I too, carried something with me for all this time?
This insight helped immensely. I remembered my innocence. Mature me, a parent, looked at pre-pubescent me with love. I stopped blaming myself for something I didn’t understand or know how to handle at the time. With the shoe on the other foot I considered the other perspective.
I rewrote some paragraphs again. Successfully this time. Memoir writing includes baring one’s vulnerabilities. With courage and introspection, I believe the process can be deeply healing.
Is writing a form of psychotherapy? Leave a comment.