Who Wants to Read My Diary?

61_do-not-readThis is probably a stupid thing to do, but I’m going to share an excerpt from my journal. I’m motivated to do this partly because I just attended a writing workshop in Big Sur led by five incredible, bestselling authors and over a hundred badass writers, and it seems appropriate to share. Folks in that workshop bared their souls, and for that I feel gratitude of gargantuan proportions. So I return the favor to them with this. I wrote it in October of 2012, when I was halfway through writing the memoir and still in that purging phase of writing, of just getting it all on the page, not knowing where it might lead.

I’m done with the manuscript now. Well, I’m “done” in that I have read and revised it so many times I can practically recite it from memory. I deleted hundreds of pages and kept 75,000 words. I feel like I’ve written and rewritten my memoir more times than the earth has circled the sun. But it’s amazing to look back and see where I was two years ago, fighting my way through the process, realizing that my story is more about love and hope and forgiveness than it is about blame or hardship. I’m forty now, and I was right. It’s okay. It’s all okay.

October 1, 2012:

I am at a big crossroads. I’ve written the first part of this manuscript, this big bulky thing, about how I was a child scorned by her sibling, neglected by her well-meaning parents. I have a hundred pages of that. But it feels wrong. It feels pointless. The story doesn’t seem to want to sit in that place, that look how bad it was place. That, “See? This is why I’m so sad,” place. The story is in what happened after I became so lost, so scared and so monumentally insecure. The story is in how the very people who harmed me (both intentionally and unintentionally) saved me. What am I trying to say here? I’m saying that I’m stuck and muddling through and doing more wandering to the pantry and twisting apart oreos than braving through words.

I need a change too. I always need change. I can’t count how many times I’ve rearranged the furniture to try to feel different. Today I just want to write down two things to remember when I get back to the writing desk: #1, You’re happiest when you’re in it: Writing, feeling, crying as the words come through. Who cares about the bigger picture right now? Write the moments worthy of rejoicing. Write the moments you’ll always be grateful for. Celebrate the people who showed up for you when the shit hit the fan.

#2: …I forget. I think it was some fleeting thought about that word, “rejoice.” It’s ringing in my head today, my 39th birthday. Rejoice and stop fretting so much. It’s all okay. You’re okay. I look forward to 40. I…what am I trying to say here? What I’m fearing most deeply is that all of this work I’m doing will amount to nothing. All this hemming, hawing, will render my pages nothing but e-waste a decade from now. But when I write that, a little voice says, “So what? Who cares?”

I saw Cheryl Strayed speak in San Francisco last week and she said, “Your book has a birthday. You just don’t know what it is yet.” And she said, “Write like a motherfucker. Do everything like a motherfucker.” And I get that sentiment. I get it. Go, get the blood out from your body and onto the page.

But when I get to my office, I get stuck and crave oreos and am distracted by Facebook and e-mail and all the unchecked things on my to-do list. When deep, way down inside, I know that what I need to be writing, to be rejoicing, is my truth. The truth of my story. No fear, never blame or hate, just beauty and love. Just rejoicing that we tried our best, and that we have all survived.

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juliebarton

I'm a writer and mom living in Northern California, author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me From Myself

3 thoughts on “Who Wants to Read My Diary?

  1. I know what you mean when you say you didn’t want your story to sit in that “look how bad it was” place. I’m having that challenge myself. It’s so easy to write about all the horrible shit that went on during the years leading up to Julian’s suicide. There were times when I was writing about it that felt like one big vomit-fest. I had a need to get it all out of me. But now that I’m in the first re-write phase, what I’m drawn to write about is: “What are the lessons?” Not in a pedantic, look at what an amazing person I am kind of way, but from a place of humility and authenticity. Because I think deep down inside, that’s what readers want to know: how does one regular ol’ person (not some celebrity or “expert”) go through the worst possible thing and come out of it, not just a-live, but a-thrive. That is our gift to the world, born from our suffering and remolded into something healing and good.

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