Monday, July 20, 2009

Kiki: New goals, and some danger ahead

Writing Goals: July 20-26
*Complete draft revision of this chapter and send to advisor by end of Friday (a whole week early!!!)
*Write one page of the Beijing Memoir
*Continue posting daily at The Prosecco Life
*Post midweek at SWIM
*Continue daily yoga practice

Reward: A Grande Dark Mocha Berry Frappuccino with Whipped Cream, and a long afternoon spent reading inspirational and entrepreneurial books at Borders. And maybe an acupuncture session, depending on cost and just how bad my TMJ is by the time the chapter goes out.
This is the first time I've mentioned anything on here about "The Beijing Memoir."  Honestly, it is the first time I've articulated it as anything other than a joke. But this is a story that has been hanging around in my head now for two whole years, banging on the bars of the cage in which I vainly tried to keep it locked and generally keeping me up at night. It has finally rattled the hinges off the cage door and sits snarling on the mangled metal. Thank you, Julia Cameron.

I experienced some truly crazy shizzle while living in China a few years ago. No, that's an understatement; it was some bizarrely unrivaled and savagely wack-ass shizzle. Now, there are a ton of memoirs out there written by foreigners who lived in China - and I mean a ton, of varying quality - all trying to promote the "wack-ass shizzle" they dealt with. None of their stories come close to mine. And this is my "niche": in none of the other memoirs out there has this particular topic been touched upon.

What happened in Beijing during that period profoundly affected me in every single way you can imagine, and some ways even I can't articulate. But it makes for a rockin' story. Frankly, it makes for such a good story that only two people in my circle know anything about it at all: Darcy and my best friend, and even they only know about 1%. This is the kind of story you either don't talk about at all, or write a book about and tell everyone.

Here's the issue, and why it hasn't been written down before: putting it "out there" publicly runs the risk of dramatically damaging at least one person's career and might even cost several people their lives if the details can be traced correctly. This story is downright dangerous. That statement is not a melodramatic cry for attention; this is hard cold fact, born of a lot of thought. And yet, keeping it seething inside is starting to eat me alive.

So what do I do? Write it as fiction? Write it in my journal where no one will see? Write it as a memoir and have it published in thirty years, when the recent past becomes the distant past and there is less of a chance that people will get hurt? Just write the darn thing down and see what happens? What do YOU think?

But this week, I am going to yoke up some courage and write down the first page of that story. And that is so much harder than getting this chapter out the door.


  1. Omg I want to read it NOW!!!

    But yes, those are some tough issues - none of which I have good answers for... but I'm curious to hear how the other experienced writers here respond.

    P.S. I've been meaning to try the dark berry frap!

  2. I'm glad you posted this question on our SWIM blog!

    I think letting it come out some in the morning pages might be one place to start. Maybe you just need to toss it all onto the pages of your MPs journal where there's nothing really at stake. Maybe think of it as downloading the words and images in your brain into a place where you can begin to process them & decide what you might like to do.

    Maybe from there you'll get a better sense of whether it should be memoir or fiction. Since other people's lives are at stake, I would veer towards fiction (but that's just me). Now, if putting this out there might generate attention that could be beneficial to people, a community, etc, that might be more than enough reason to go the nonfic route.

    But for now, maybe keeping it in the morning pages OR since your morning pages seem to be focused on yogademia (yoga teacher training = yay!), you could maybe start a separate notebook or computer file to keep the China material separate.

    I look forward to seeing how all this develops. Let your wild mind run free! :)

  3. Thank you for asking such a great and thought provoking question Kiki.

    I have battled with the same type of issue for quite awhile. I have wanted to write a memoir but have been worried about the consequences of what writing it would mean. In my case, it would negatively impact of lot of family members/acquaintances who were responsible for or helped to perpetuate abuse. For a long time I wavered back and forth about whether I should write it about it or not. After a while, it became clear that I needed to write it out for me.

    So I have began to write it out in my personal journal. Once a week I give myself an hour and I just write about it. Writing whatever memories or stories that come to my mind in that hour. So far, I have found the process to be really healing.

    I am still not sure about whether or not I will ever want to publish it. Some days I think it is something that needs to be talked about and heard and other days I think the opposite.

    My suggestion for you would to be to just write about it and see where it goes from there. I think Revisionista's ideas are a great place to start.

  4. Hi Kiki, I am so glad you shared this :) I agree with Revisionista to let it out in your personal journaling (whether morning pages or otherwise) and to think about framing it in the context of fiction. Unless, of course, there would be a community benefit to telling your story as non-fiction.

    Either way, if a story is fascinating, it must be written - how it is then presented/contextualized/pseudonymed to protect people involved is all the later part. You may write it and decide you dont want it published as anything other than non-fiction, in which case waiting some time to publish may be the way to go. But I think once you write it, you will be closer to knowing the outcome you would like in terms of how to public (fiction or memoir).

  5. The first think I would say is WRITE IT, WRITE IT, WRITE IT! This story is screaming to be written and is screaming inside you and I can only see it getting louder and finally unbearable. I went through something similar. The novel I'm writing now is based on a true story I witnessed while working in a hospital. Something pretty horrifying. I have decided writing it as fiction for several reasons. The first and main reason is because of the freedom that would give me on how to tell the story. Since every memory has been already edited in the process of becoming what it is, the line between memoir and fiction becomes very slim. There is truth in both. What you will finally do with your story it will be revealed to you at some point and, as you know, the process of writing is so long, that for the moment you've just made the right decision: start writing the first page. I send you from here every word of encouragement, every positive thought for this journey you are about to embark. I can see it's not going to be an easy one. I can also see you won't be able to avoid it. Something great is going to come out from all this. Good luck!