Passionate Disbelief: A Testament to Effort

hemmingway-first-draft

It may be just another from there-to-here story, but it is mine.

Officially, I haven’t written in my memoir for about two weeks. Sure, I typed over 50-thousand words for Nano in November, but so what? This isn’t just the telling of any story, it’s the recording of a part of my life. That first whack during Nano (something less than a 1st draft) is like putting primer on the wall before painting or prepping a canvas.

When I tried to make an outline, I ended up with a list of events somewhat out of order. Each time I had a memory or an idea, I quickly added it to the list. I now have a list of 165 items, memories, or events. There are a few duplicates, some ideas aren’t useable, and for some I still have no idea what I was thinking about or why I added it to the list.

I’ve glossed over a few how to write a memoir books. Now I’m slowly reading Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer. I just finished Writing is My Drink, a memoir by Theo Pauline Nestor. Giving all this thought to autobiographical writing has enlightened me that I prefer non-fiction to fiction. I prefer autobiography to biography, and specifically memoirs. I like history. In fiction, I prefer real life/real world stories to Sci-Fi or fantasy. It’s complicated. I like them all. Anything done well is better than my favorite genre not so well done.

I’m even considering changing last year’s novel to an autobiographical novel, and rewriting it from third to first person. But that’s for later. For now, I want to keep working on this memoir. While I’ve not recently written much in it, I have been working on it. Organizing both it and meh-self has taken a bit of time.

About 80% of my writing is rewriting, and if you know how Nano goes (thou shalt not edit), that effort will require mooch-o rework. It’ll keep me off the streets, out of the bars, and out of most trouble for a while. I enjoy rewriting, editing, correcting, and improving my own work more than writing the first draft. Maybe that’s cuz I don’t have to create (think) and spell simultaneously.

Writers get it.

Writers get it.

I’ll be right here, in my 11×11 spare room. This is my work-space, set up with folding tables that I can take down to turn it back into a bedroom when we have visitors. While I sometimes find other locations to write, I prefer this one. I got all meh stuff around me. And look at these post-it notes behind me. Each one has one or more of the topics contained in my memoir. Those written in pink or orange highlighter are yet to be written. It’s how I’m organizing the thing until I learn Scribner.

A memoir of post it notes

A memoir of post it notes

Below is my view from the chair at my computer. The sock monkey on top is the kind that rolls around and laughs, in case I need a lift, or someone walks in here and asks me what I’m doing. A couple of windows to my right provide an uninspiring view of my neighbor’s rooftop. But I want to know when it’s raining — pluviophile, remember?

The view from my writing nest

The view from my writing nest

Here is a little snippet from my memoir. I was 17, would soon graduate from high school, and was Air Force bound in a few months. Shirley was my sister and Danny’s meh big brudder.

As a senior in high school, my guide and advisor regarding entrance into the military was Shirley’s husband, Jack M. This hard-core, active-duty, career Marine gave me all the advice he could – more than I could assimilate. Jack was a highly decorated First Sergeant (Sergeant Major to be) and a veteran of both WWII and Korea. He would later complete two tours in Viet Nam, and he would resent being denied a third.

Sergeant Major M. was a true warrior. He was the guy you want on your side in a fight, but not necessarily the man you wanted in any situation requiring sensitivity, grace, or political correctness. Despite this, Jack was a boisterous and friendly Italian-American from Ohio who seemed to be liked by everyone.

Jack and Shirley were both Catholics, but were married by a Justice of the Peace because Jack was divorced. Eventually they were married into to the good graces of the Church, which seems strange because they never practiced their religion, or if they did, not for long.

One day Jack and I were browsing through a hardware store so he could tell me what to buy and what was good stuff. This was back when hardware stores had everything or knew where to get it.

Jack pointed at some hunting knives in a case, “Yer gunna want a good knife. Your own. Not too long, but you want good balance, feel, and steel that won’t break on bone. In the Marine Corps, everyone has a knife.”

I looked at him, “Jack, do you think I should join the Marine Corps and not the Air Force? It’s not too late to change.”

“Oh Jesus, no. First off, yer Mom would hate me, if not kill me. But I gotta tell ya, Billy. Yer Air Force material. The Marine Corps don’t work out fer kids like you. Shit, the Marine Corps is not for you.”

Jack was right. The Corps had not worked out well for Danny. Why would it for me?

Jack picked up a knife and pointed it at me. “But, this knife here looks like a good one. It’s Solingen steel and I can tell ya, the Krauts make good stuff like this. Feel it and see how it fits ya. How’s the balance?”

Jack bought the knife as a gift for me. It had a straight, one-inch wide, thick steel blade. The handle was black plastic inlaid with a red and white diamond symbol, and a black metal sheath. I soon realized that Marines have many more good uses for knives than Airmen do.

Note: My Air Force career spanned over 45 years; 22 active duty, the rest civilian. In my last job before retirement, I worked on Eglin Air Force Base for a Marine Corps Colonel. I enjoyed telling him this story.

Only you can tell your story.
Just mind the gaps and look both ways.

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8 thoughts on “Passionate Disbelief: A Testament to Effort

  1. I feel very inspired by your wall of post-it notes… And also your description of NaNoWriMo bring akin to priming a canvas. I think it was my downfall in misunderstanding quite how rough a first draft could be.

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  2. I like your “post it note” system. How many times have you moved those around? LOL…I only ask cause I have a similar system on a white board that I’m constantly changing…my version of organized chaos. I may go your route with the sticky notes…easier to move around.

    I enjoyed the excerpt from your memoir. I look forward to reading more.

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    • When I add a topic in, I can easily find its place, but then I have to move a lot of the notes. It helps with organization, but I need to write the text soon, lest I forget what they mean, “a safe environment” for example. 🙂

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  3. I see the sock monkey survived–Mine is above my desk at work (got the idea from an old friend). What I love is that I can put it on the floor and turn it on in a circle of 5 or so 40-50 yr old men and they will all stand there and giggle ;-). As for that USMC Colonel–I saw him last month when he was here on business. He is doing well and looks great–It was nice to see him. I enjoyed the article Bill–Write on!

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  4. My Marine has a serious blade fetish. One day I suspect a case will be made and hung in his man cave, whereas I will be using the guest room to hang post-it notes on the walls 😉 LOL our kids are in those rooms for now, though.
    Great post. I like the way you have the material and are now reading to sharpen your skills.
    I love Scrivener, but ultimately, I feel I could benefit from a class.

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  5. Excellently written snippet which makes me want to read more. I think we all know a Jack from Ohio who is just like that. Thanks for sharing, and also thank you for the photos of your space. I’m always interested in other peoples spaces.

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    • I recall back when my family had to get gamma shots in the butt (me too) as prevent to hepatitis. Oldest son, then about 6, was yelling “ouch, ouch, ouch” and the tech shows me the needle and says, “I haven’t even stuck him yet.” To this day, we all joke about it. The shots were a literal pain in the ass, but apparently worked.

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