Denis Ledoux’ new memoir brings sadness and pain (Part Two)

As promised, here is the second part of Denis Ledoux’ guest post about memoir writing and his experience writing about his childhood. To refresh your memories about Part One, here is the link. I think all memoir writers will find the second part of his post just as fascinating and instructional.

Writing more deeply

If I write about them [his parents]in psychological terms, and include something about their woundedness—their earlier trajectory in life—and simply not having the information available to them—to some extent, perhaps due to lack of education and resourcefulness, perhaps due to certain romantic bent, then I am revealing something to the world that my parents may not have wanted me to reveal, to broadcast in a memoir.

In writing this book which is clearly my memoir and not theirs but which includes much information about my parents, I feel that, to some extent, I am betraying them. Both my parents are gone now, and yet I have some loyalty to them. Isn’t it incumbent on me to preserve their privacy?

Denis is the cute, well-behaved child on his father’s knee.

That said, I also have some loyalty to the concept that, if deeply and honestly written—that is, if my memoir explores the psychology of the experience and is faithful to articulating that experience, it can contribute to our awareness of the human condition and our ability to live creatively, positively with it. In addition, will not the reader forgive my parents their mistakes?

Since I am writing here in this post about the process of writing and not about the specifics of my parents’ lives, I will omit writing about the struggle and the decisions that they lived. Instead I will simply say that, in three years time from when they were 30 and 31, there will be a crisis in their lives. My mother will face nervous tension that is almost beyond what she can handle—but the nervous tension will not cross over into a breakdown—and she will pull through. My father is somewhat more stoic and he simply buckles down and does the work of getting through this time in his life. He will work a second job in addition to the farm work he does at our place after his first job. My mother will do more farm work, more sewing, more canning, and she too will pull through.

My mother will refer regretfully to this time for the rest of her life—but will not cross over into bitterness. She forgave the difficulty but did not forget it. I, too, will remember this as a difficult time that marked me. I will deal with this time in my parents’ lives for the rest of my own life. It is a classic case of the “sins” of the father—and the mother—visiting their children. (I hope it is not unto the seventh generation!)

To choose to omit writing about this challenge, would be to omit writing about a clear negative influencer on my childhood which my parents might have averted with a few better decisions. (Again, let me emphasize that they were not foolish or neglectful people.)

Denis is the smiley shorter boy on the right

Were I to decide not to write about this time, the rest of my memoir, while it would have avoided the pain of reliving this part of my story, would also be a memoir that is not truthful, and as the adage has it, “the truth will set you [me] free,” I would have missed a key opportunity in my writing experience.

I am also convinced the reader would feel the omission, and while s/he will not, of course,  be able to identify the problem, a sense of something missing would permeate the story. The memoir would seem less valuable to the reader, even as the reader would not be able to put a finger on the problem.

In conclusion

There are days when I do not want to continue writing because I do not want to be reliving this time which is coming up in the story, but I know that writing about this experience will be a healing experience.

Like heavy baggage that one puts down and continues without, the story needs to be written and its pain put down.

I need to continue without it. I am looking forward to that time.

Thank you again, Denis, for your thoughts about writing memoir. We very much appreciate your wise words. 

Also, Choices, readers, please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Denis’ Bio
An acknowledged leader in the memoir-writing field, Denis has been helping people write since 1988. Readers of this blog can avail themselves of his free five-part e-course Start to Write Your Memoir. Denis is also the author of the classic Turning Memories Into Memoirs / A Handbook for Writing Lifestories and many other memoir-writing books. Join his My Memoir Education Membership. It’s complementary, and you’ll receive tons of free materials.




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