Writing about Tough Stuff (and then getting on with your day?)

I’m writing my first book-length memoirIt’s something I thought I would never, ever write–that I would never have the stomach for. 

But I am writing it. I feel compelled to write it. It’s called “What Brought You Here,” and it’s the story about my leaving Ireland at age 24 to come and live in the U.S.  The title derives from all those times when someone heard my non-American accent and inquired: “Oh, what brought you here?”

The story is, of course, about much more than just a set of economic drivers or the adventures and misadventures of my early years in America. This book is the proverbial long and complex answer to that very short question (what brought you here).

I’ve just drafted and printed the first 50 pages. I have no idea if it will ever get published.

Last Monday, I flipped back through the “easier” stuff to write and insert a really difficult scene.  How difficult? I, a woman who (mostly) breezes through the transatlantic airport departure lounge completely dry-eyed, sat here at my computer weeping.

Then, this morning, almost a week later, I got up, made coffee and tackled the second-most difficult scene. As soon as I began to write Difficult Scene 2, I instantly sank into another bout of  melancholy.

2013-06-15 11.27.38Surely this is a kind of willful psychosis?  Surely, on an ordinary American Sunday, a day when the sun is shining through my writing-studio window, it would be easier and healthier not to revisit or revive the past. To simply stay in the present?

But for better or worse,  I’ve written both scenes. In doing so, I’ve committed to typed words one of the saddest and loneliest times of my adult life.

Writing these scenes–actually the whole book so far–has taught me that sometimes, we commit our worst acts of cowardice, our most heinous acts of negligence against ourselves.

So I’m done.    I’m free to get up from this desk and go about the rest of my normal American Sunday.   

Or am I?


About Aine Greaney

I'm an Irish writer living in greater Boston. I've published four books--two novels, a small collection of short stories and a how-to writing book, "Writer with a Day Job" (Writers Digest Books). I've also published lots of short stories, essays and feature articles. My latest project, "What Brought You Here" is a non-fiction narrative about being an expatriate in America. Find me on Twitter @ainegreaney. Or at my author web page, www.ainegreaney.com. As well as creative writing, I am the communications director for a healthcare non-profit. I also lead creative writing workshops at various libraries, schools and arts programs. At my workshops, I've been inspired by lots of wonderful writers--most of whom work a day job!
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9 Responses to Writing about Tough Stuff (and then getting on with your day?)

  1. Loretta Worters says:

    Congrats on your first 50 pages! Writing the tough stuff, while painful, helps us in the journey to understand ourselves better. It is only through writing our story that we can heal.

  2. Aine Greaney says:

    Thank you, Loretta. Yes, I think the “understanding” part rings true. But it’s still dang tough.

  3. Laurie Skiba says:

    Aine, thank you so much for your honesty here and in your work in progress, which I hope someday to read. This post is provoking me to be bolder with my own writing.

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Thanks so much, Laurie, for reading and for your comment. Yes, honesty is a tough one in writing–even in fiction. In this book, I’ve decided that I owe the highest degree of honesty in writing about myself and what was and is true for me.

  4. Karin says:

    I would look forward to reading your journey. Even if it never gets published, it is a good feeling to get it down and move on. I decided I didn’t want to revisit my life by writing it and laying it out there in the world. I am told that my life is interesting and people would read it. So I have been writing pages and pages of prompts. I will turn them into paragraphed pages, whether published or not. I don’t want to face the tough stuff but it would be therapeutic to face it on paper. I hope you do publish your memoir. I’ll be first in line.

  5. Aine Greaney says:

    Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I’m still struggling with this idea of writing publicly. But I have found some published memoirs that do it well, and this is encouraging. I think timing is also a factor. There are times in our lives when we’re just better not putting much thought or word to anything, just carrying right on with our daily tasks. There’s a good time in our lives for everything.

  6. Aine, I’m excited to hear about your memoir! I love the title. Keep writing about the tough stuff; you have the courage to go there. Thanks for sharing your process in this post. It’s inspiring.

    • Aine Greaney says:

      Thanks Barbara. That’s so encouraging to hear that the title might work. The process is tough but delightful. I am currently in ‘sticky note’ mode!!! So much for high tech, heh!

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