For reasons only a psychoanalyst could clearly state, I don’t seem able to get this book finished. I have promised to send it out to the family members who are mentioned in it for their comments and permission to use their real names. I have asked the designer to stand by to do the covers. I have promised myself it is #1 on the priorities list. But no matter what I do I just can’t get it to a point where I can send it out.
The biggest issue has been endlessly rewriting the first chapter. I realise this is because I don’t really know what I want to project in this so-important introductory bit. I have been struggling between two positions: a kind of grovelling excuse-seeking for having been such a dreadful mother and partner and sister and daughter (and probably everything else) all my life and not having realised it, and the desire to say look here, you guys, I was doing my best! I came from another era! I had a miserable confused childhood just like everybody else who was born close to World War 2! And I think I worked incredibly hard and tried everything to keep the show on the road. If it didn’t turn out so well for you all, I am sorry, but I can’t go to my afterlife taking all the blame! I couldn’t be a perfect person. What a surprise! But I guess I am still regretting that.
If my emotions throughout 2018 seemed unstable, the beginning of 2019 has been even worse. Maybe writing a memoir was not the best idea, under the circumstances. A part of me wants to just forget about it right now, today, put the project aside and go back to painting my landscapes and writing about art. Of course none of it makes the slightest bit of difference and it is dawning on me that nobody, I mean nobody, cares in the least what I write or don’t write. It is, to follow my perpetual aqua-marine metaphorical inclination, all just water under the bridge. Or to quote my recent favourite ballad:
And instead of being someone with the world to win I’m just driftwood on the river of regret.
This is from a song sung by Ernest Tubb in 1959. The original version is on Youtube here – I think I worked out how to embed a song in a post – always something new to learn!
As this song seems so completely apposite to my memoir I set about finding out how to get permission to use these two lines as opening quote in Regret Horizon. What a fascinating business this copyright stuff is. I will write a post about it when I have an outcome.
Meanwhile I’ll just keep on drifting with Ernest Tubb and try to take the deeper philosophical meanings on board.
So my memoir of the year my mother and my ex-husband died is almost finished. Procrastinating about sending it out to the family and trying to do the final edits. Every time I open the file I find myself making changes, not just a few, but a lot. I still don’t feel clear about it. And the question of the title has been holding things up. From the start, the working title was A Dying Year. Feedback? Oh, that sounds so sad/distressing/upsetting. And who is dying? Is it you? Is this yet another PityParty by someone on the way out? No, no, not that! Well, what then?
So it got a new title, and a new slant, because I realised by the time I had finished the penultimate draft that my main feeling about everything was my awfulness, and how much I still don’t understand, and how much I feel regret for what I had done and not done in those last few months.
Somehow water, rivers and seas, threaded through everything I felt throughout the process of writing this book. So when I found Jordan Cantelo’s wonderful photograph, “Ocean Horizon”, it spoke to me profoundly. Jordan gave me permission to use it for the cover, and asked for no payment, which was truly generous of him. I love his work. I will write something more about it later.
I am very close now to getting the memoir finished. Here’s the draft cover. There are a few different variants. Keith my designer will finalise it. I am so grateful to talented Western Australian photographer Jordan Cantelo for his generous permission to use his photograph Ocean Horizon for the cover image. Visit his site to see more of his outstanding work at http://jordancantelo.com/
The title has changed to Regret Horizon and there are several reasons for that. I sent a semi-final version to one of the main characters in the book and she read it twice in a few days and came back with a lot of changes. She said I’d got quite a few things “wrong”. Some were factual things, some were more interpretations and opinions. But it threw me. How far do I have to go to include the views of the people I am writing about? They are all real people with their own points of view and their own desires and hopes in terms of how they might appear in someone’s book, especially when it’s their own mother/grandmother/partner/ex-partner’s wife/sister and so on. I’m so close to publishing this book, but equally close to abandoning the project altogether. I’m going to wait until I get some other comments and feedback, meanwhile I’m in Procrastination City.
New Year’s Resolution: open an Instagram
account. At least I’d feel I was doing something. Got some great photos since
New Year’s Day so I’ll be seeing you or rather you won’t be seeing me but you’ll
be seeing what I see. Which, in a way, is what a Memoir really is all about.
So Volume 1, Regret Horizons, is almost ready. A cover design is underway with final elements to be provided by Keith. The text is written. After going through the issues haunting Knausgaard (thanks, Uncle Gunnar, for the vital prompt about defamation, invasion of privacy, legal questions) all the most contentious parts have been pared down to the very barest minimum, with only tiny hints instead of full-bodied assertion. Wimpy I know. “Tell your own truth” says my counsellor and I know where he’s coming from and I want to, but I can’t, at least not in this book.
Thought I had covered all bases although there were still a few itchy spots remaining. But I need them in the story for it to make sense for me. I can’t eliminate everything, like some kind of textual Botox. Now it’s time to give it to the rellos to make sure they agree to having their names used, or to indicate otherwise. Only tried it with one so far and pages of comment about “what really happened” have come back. Needless to say it’s not my version. Now I have to decide how to handle this.
The others will probably have their own comments to throw into the mix. One at least is likely to be even more what – concerned? Outraged? What to do? I understand exactly how Knausgaard felt when he tried to reconcile his recollections of cleaning up his father’s trashed house full of filth and empty bottles with Uncle Gunnar’s totally different version. I’ll probably have to do what he did, and write about that too. Oh god, so the book isn’t finished after all!