The Challenge for Day 22
Today’s challenge is to write about “Fear”. Will you give in or fight it? What will you do with it? The funny thing is that I’ve just started a course on Memoir Writing with Pauline Clooney. My assignment for this weekend was to write the preface for my memoir, even though I haven’t even started the book yet! Anyway, out of laziness or practicality, I decided I’d combine the two prompts into this post for Day 22. It’s just an outline, a work in progress, but at least it’s a start.
The blank page can be a scary thing. I’ve just been asked to write the preface for my book and it feels like a daunting task. What do I focus on? I could write a narrative on the benefits of confronting your fears, but psychologists can do that much better than me. Perhaps I should be flippant and pretend that fear hasn’t really ruled my life, that I’m just doing this for fun? But that would not be true. So, instead, I’ll just keep it simple and talk about how and why I wrote this memoir.
Someone asked me recently, “What two words of advice would you give to the younger you?” The answer jumped out as if it had been waiting a lifetime, “Be brave.” And I guess that sums up why I wrote this memoir. The element of fear runs through the book, but it doesn’t define it. I’m taking a sword to the fears, dragging them out into the open, refusing to hide behind them anymore. And do you know the best part? It’s learning how to be free again, like five-year-old me, a little princess warrior.
So, how did I choose what to include, what to leave out? I guess it’s a bit like picking photographs for an album, digital or otherwise. Some might be old and grainy, even blurred in places. My childhood memories fall into this category, unreliable but reflecting the world as I saw it at the time. There are close-ups in there, scenes that show intense struggles with fear and how I dealt with them. Other stories take a broader view, examining life through the lenses of an ever-changing Ireland and adding context to my own story.
The stories are rooted in actual events. Some names, appearances and locations have been changed to protect people’s privacy. Sometimes I’ve added dialogue, it may not be completely accurate but it represents the general mood or attitude of the characters. Other times I’ve taken a bit of creative license and embellished certain details, in order to flesh out the stories. But always the writing is true to my interpretation of events at the time. I realize that others may recall things differently, but all I can do is write from my own perspective.
This book is not all doom and gloom, far from it. That would be like showing you a Darkroom negative instead of the finished picture with all its nuanced shades. We are all flawed human beings, influenced in our choices by both heredity and environment. Some of us might inherit happier genes or better role models, maybe grow up in a kinder culture. Yet, we all face struggles in life, often with fear lurking in the background.
Fear can be paralyzing, keeping you trapped in a dark attic of indecision, self-criticism and despair. At least, that’s been my experience. But somewhere deep inside, the little princess warrior never gave up and I began to realize that I needed to tackle the fears one by one. That meant shaking them out of their hiding places and looking them straight in the eye. Maybe even laughing at them. Whatever it took. Freed from their shackles, I could breathe in the beauty of the world again.
“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy” Desiderata
Day 22 of my 31 Day 500 Words Challenge, hosted by Jeff Goins: Memoir Preface
The photograph is my own, taken during a photo shoot in The Curragh. See on Flickr.