Ten years ago, I sat in my living room getting grilled by my writing group. They insisted part of the manuscript for my memoir, Broken: A Love Story didn’t ring true. Specifically, they were unconvinced by the sequence of events leading up to me being assaulted in the Wyoming desert. I wasn’t raped or physically hurt, but had been so terrified by the episode that I’d stuffed it deep into a nice, deep, inaccessible psychic crevasse.
I rewrote it a couple of times, trotting out all my fanciest verbiage.
Nuh-uh, said the ladies.
They were tough. One of them was the former head of the Creative Writing department at the University of Colorado, where she’d been my professor about 25 years before. I wrote the scene again. Nope. And again. And finally on my fifth try — cursing my writing pals, weeping piteously and drinking wine from an open bottle in the middle of the day — I came out with it: I had stuck my finger in the ear of my assailant, flirtatiously, sending him into the over-reaction that hurt us both for years.
This satisfied my writing group. But that truth was going to cost me. Sticking my finger in the cowboy’s ear was not a moment I wanted to bandy about to the reading public, much less in my own home. It aggravated the state of emotional churn and awkwardness to which I, like most memoirists, succumb in the months before publication. This state has been compared to that of very pregnant women, only our baby is going to be immediately inspected and judged by thousands, or (and in our wildest dreams/nightmares) millions of people. Every tingle of expectation is accompanied by a greater slap of dread. We have a hard time swallowing