The great memoir experiment
You know what I hate most about writing an autobiography? The writing about myself part.
I’m a writer who had cancer and beat it, so I thought I would write a book about it. I didn’t come to this decision quickly or lightly. It took me years to convince myself that I have a story worth sharing.
I underwent six months of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, then visited my specialist and other medical professionals frequently over the following five years once my cancer was in remission. It was, as you might expect, the most challenging period of my life, but it wasn’t all bad (believe it or not).
There are plenty of sad moments, great humor (yup) and tough lessons I have to offer in this book, currently in its second draft. While writing about this time in my life has proven to be cathartic in respect to moving on, I have found that writing about myself with relentless honesty can be downright brutal to my ego, if not just my general day-to-day mood.
A lot of regret and shame. Also a lot of mac-and-cheese, so I have that going for me.
My goal with the book is to tell my story in a way that can help any reader who can identify with the struggle of being unexpectedly knocked down and is doing the best they can to get up off the ground and keep moving forward.
What I’ve come to believe after more than 15 years about writing — whether it’s for the purposes of journalism or to just humor yourself or someone else — is that there is no single method for doing it. Even if you think, as a writer, that you have your own system that works for you on one assignment, it may not comply with the next one.
We live in a remarkably creative time in American culture, and if I look at the challenge of writing my memoir as a creative problem, then I need to operate with a creative solution.
Here’s where you, dear Medium reader, come into play.
I’m going to post various amounts of the manuscript in chronological order at random times. I don’t have a set schedule for how regularly I will be posting next portions or chapters, but I will be shooting for a frequency that will hold your interest in my story.
What I’d like from you are suggestions about what you think I should tweak or full-on extrapolate in the construction of my narrative. Am I being honest or emotionally open enough about a certain element of my account? Should I elaborate more about certain information or experiences? Does my sense of humor register well in the storytelling or am I using it in the wrong spot, or possibly relying on humor too much? Whatever comes to mind … please highlight, leave a note and/or comment where you see fit.
I won’t be sharing the memoir pieces on social media as I would my previous or future non-book-related posts, so you’ll only find them when you log in here on Medium.
I’m going to write my next draft here on Medium. I have read over the site’s Terms of Service and it clearly states, above all else, that the original content I post here is mine. And I’d love to meet the person who has the balls to steal the story of a cancer survivor and pass it off as their own. Seriously … bring that pending lawsuit the fuck on, plagiarists.
If you want to participate and help me make this book the best it can be for the sake of future readers, then that would be terrific and I welcome your assistance. I’ll do my best to track every participant and give them a verbal credit or a social media plug in some form or another once the book is done and gets published — even if I don’t necessarily follow your suggestions (creative choices, people).
If you insist on leaving negative comments just for the sake of being a troll … well, I suggest you just go write your own damn book.
I have just less than three months until Labor Day — that’s my goal for getting this next draft complete, followed by one more revision to complete (offline) by the end of the year, then I’ll start pitching the book to publishers in early 2017.
This could be a very successful experiment. This could go terribly wrong. Life — even after cancer — should be lived with some risks. I want to tell my story so that it might help someone else who needs help getting up and moving on. And at the end of this effort, if only a single person buys the book and benefits from it, then that’s all that matters to me.
First section will be only soon, so keep an eye out.
And thank you for the help.