When I was a girl, I used to look around and tell stories in my head about what I saw. When I discovered the art of transcribing it, the life inside me connected with the world around me. Writing wasn’t something I chose to try; rather, it became something I was compelled to do. First poems on my father’s old-style typewriter, then short stories, and then into journals as an adolescent and young woman. There was no goal of completing a short story, no dreams of publishing a best seller, no aspirations of becoming a well-known and respected author. Just me, a pen and paper.
Living abroad and traveling internationally offered unique opportunities for chronicling my experiences. I was lucky to have such unusual ones as getting yelled at by the head of the South African Stock Exchange; finagling my way out of doom by a local guerrilla one night in a rainy Nigerian jungle; and interviewing a top negotiator for the Palestinian National Authority. These have provided for some fascinating stories.
But writing, good writing, doesn’t require such rarities. The true memoirist can take a simple experience and weave such velvety beauty that it can, in an instant, yank you back to what’s real and what matters, in that lovely heart wrenching way.
At first, there was no intention for my writing, but that has turned into writing a memoir. How? Writing, a lot. A lot of crap, a lot of mediocre, and some, I think, not bad at all. The stories come to me as I’m doing those rudimentary tasks: driving my sons around, cleaning the kitchen, folding the clothes. And especially in the middle of the night. I am awakened with a searchlight force of stories blaring at me like a foghorn, demanding I write them down. Only occasionally do I obey – nothing is worse than a writing hangover with two rambunctious little boys at 5:30 a.m., and often I do not have the luxury of shirking off the mundane tasks that fall on my stay-at-home-mom shoulders. And let me tell you, those stories that come to me in my head are utter brilliance. They would make the hardest man fall to his knees in tears. They would infuse all of society with a mercy and inspiration that would change our world forever. They are golden, exquisite letters of love that surpass all the wisdom of humanity.
Then, normally at night, after my kids are asleep, I fall into bed with my Mac and attempt to click out the genius that came to me. And I write. And as I write, disappointment often spills over me like sour milk. How is it that I cannot capture all of those tales? But I keep writing, often loathing myself and my arrogance for thinking any of it was any good. I keep writing, and see that, okay, it wasn’t that terrible. And after writing some more, a surge of relief and excitement reminds me that hey, this isn’t so bad! I write and I write and I write, and before I know it – a story has come out.