Losing my story (or my capacity to tell it)

For the longest time I have entertained a writing project. Memoirish, I described it. I put time and money aside to facilitate this activity. I’ve been going through the money, but have little to show for my time. It has been more than a year since I’ve written anything serious of a personal nature beyond a few small prose pieces or random blog posts. I’ve written about writing and not writing and all manner of writerly insecurity. I regularly hear from people who, much to my surprise, enjoy what I do write, appreciate what I share. Yesterday, after submitting an overdue review, for better or worse, I told myself that I must finally get serious about trying to pull together a more significant effort.

Yet, I woke up today fearing that I can no longer tell my story. The only story I have to tell and I cannot share it. The cost is too great.I don’t know how others do it. Detail their personal lives, their vulnerabilities, their victories. Perhaps there is a part of ego that has no filter, a point of pride that longs to disclose. But that’s not me. In real life, I’ve come to understand that my existence can only begin to affect some measure of authenticity if I refrain from attempting to have full expression of all that I am. All that I have been. It’s one thing to write. I have published a few raw and honest pieces that have been well received, that can be searched online, and I am happy with each one. And here at home, for the past three years, I have been more intentionally out and involved in LGBTQ and affirming spaces in a way I never dared before. However, more often than not, I’m left feeling defeated. It’s all okay, it seems, until I try to have my voice heard. My history validated. My pain respected.

I would to dream that writing could heal the loss and grief I carry. Yet, too much loss and too little gain makes for a story no one would want to read. Life stories are supposed to show recovery, strength, hope. But that’s wishful thinking. Real life itself just goes on. I am afraid that attempting to write now would only reveal the anger and despair that I can’t get past.

This is not to say that there have not been many positives in recent years. I’ve a network of good friends across the globe. I’ve travelled to some amazing places. I still love writing—reviewing, interviewing, and editing. I am producing work that I am truly proud of. And I’m not ashamed of who I am. But I think I have reached the limit of what I want to explore on a deeply personal level in writing.

Perhaps some stories are better left untold. Some transmythologies are better left uncontested. And some lives are more coherently lived by keeping the closet doors at least partially closed.

This weekend I realized that, in no uncertain terms, it is one thing to be “accepted” as long as you don’t talk about yourself, or your life, in any way that others do not want to hear. This simple truth has finally extinguished my intention to continue this memoirish fantasy.

I wish I was a poet.

Sometimes I think poetry offers the only hope that one could touch the truth but keep the self intact.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

34 thoughts on “Losing my story (or my capacity to tell it)”

  1. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, Joe, but perhaps if you had some distance from it, you could write what you want to tell, with feeling and sensitivity but without revealing everything. This is where fiction might work for you. Maybe if you create a character a bit like you, but different depending on where the trajectory of the story leads you.
    Look at something like The Parcel by Anosh Irani. A very powerful book with a bittersweet trajectory.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have talked about fiction with a friend, at least for an aspect of my story. But quite honestly I do not feel that I have the ability or inclination to write fiction. With all the responses I’ve had today I think that it has more to do with a lack of validation and support in my real life. It makes me want to go back into a less visible space.

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      1. Well, you know what is best for you… but I would like to suggest that you do keep writing if you can. If not about what pains you, then about something, anything else. And even if it’s wholly in private.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You express yourself well Joe – I wonder if stories told from the bone as it were, are just too personal, too much like the confessional/couch. There is a way of relating to both story and reader without the swamping feeling.
    I am not a writer (except of poems) only a reader (and therapist) but there are two stories it seems to me – one for the personal and one for the public. Do both – write on!

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    1. I suspect that, because I lack a close friend or relationship or truly supportive community at home, I need to have an audience (even if I heavily edit what I share, which I do). I need to be heard. I have a therapist for the messy stuff.

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      1. I guess that is what I meant- the intimate audience – neither therapist nor stranger – sort of ‘ he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother’ kind of thing. Sharing the load with the bit in between might lighten up the writer enough to get up and go – just a thought. All the best Joe.

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  3. ‘some lives are more coherently lived by keeping the closet doors at least partially closed.’ – as much as I love this profound thought, I’d not want to see you give up Joe! Don’t, please. \m/

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  4. I agree with Lisa – I think fiction is a good way of addressing what we might want to express, yet with enough distance to avoid some of the pitfalls of that expression. It may also help to just write, write, write, with no audience or future publish date in mind, with no expectations beyond leaving the piece in a drawer at the end of the day. You may then return to the piece and decide to share it, it might spark an idea for something else you’d like to write and share, or it might just help instil a routine of writing, for better or worse!

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  5. Let this phase of despair pass, and you will find a way to express what you want to, need to, ready to. Not more, nor less. In the meantime, take one day at a time. Even in your toughest moments, remember that you have friends, people whose lives are better because you are a part of it. So hang in there. And keep writing.

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  6. I’m another in agreement with Lisa. Maybe fiction can give you that fraction of distance to explore your own story with words. Or maybe write with the intention of showing your work to no-one. Until it is written. Then you can decide. Even if you have reached an impasse, see it as just that rather than a closed door. X

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  7. I have to agree with what others are saying here. You have much to say Joe, and you say it well. If the memoir format is not for you – and I can understand that, laying yourself bare that way takes a strength I could certainly never muster – then maybe working out your ideas, feeling, beliefs et al in fiction would be a way ahead. As Sarah says, once that writing process is over you might be able to gain the distance to decide what you should do with it. No-one expects solutions or happy endings nowadays – we know life is not like that. I hope you will continue to write – if for no other reason than I believe it is something you *need* to do.

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    1. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not the format so much as whether I want to, or can talk about my experience (my gendered experience that is). It seems the ground shifts so much. Then, it is the nebulousness of the existence that I should try to capture…

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  8. I don’t know how people do it, either. I have always thought writers are so brave.
    I like the ideas others have mentioned – writing fiction as well as writing for yourself. I’ve heard many writers say that writing helps them make sense of things – maybe this is the same for you?

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  9. Maybe the events you want to capture in your writing are too recent and too painful to address now? Some people find it therapeutic to write about the most difficult times of their life but others that it re-opens the wounds once again. Give yourself some time Joe or, as others have suggested, try a different format and it will come

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  10. “Sometimes I think poetry offers the only hope that one could touch the truth but keep the self intact.” – how beautiful this line is. Only you can write like you do and only you can tell your story. Please don’t discard your possibilities to find your way through writing just yet, prose or poetry. I don’t mean to be presumptuous Joseph, since I only know you through your writing, but poetry can, of course, sometimes help. I know few poems as beautiful as “Kyrie” by Tomas Tranströmer: https://tomastranstromer.net/2017/02/04/kyrie-by-tomas-transtromer/

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  11. Perhaps this might seem too simplistic, but have you considered telling yourself that you could use the experience of writing it but that you won’t necessarily publish the work? So that you might be giving yourself a certain kind of permission to move ahead with the “putting it on the page” part and then you can revisit the question of “what to do with it” at some point in the future? I know for myself I often get caught up in the meaning of a piece/project, what it means to me and what it could mean to imaginary others, and this can really get in the way of my actually writing something/anything. But maybe that’s just me. BTW, I’ve had some techinical difficulties lately; I will gradually catch up with your posts over the next while. Looking forward to it!

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    1. If I can carve out some time, the next serious writing I have to do will be very personal and from that I may end up with material I can work into something shareable. But I am realizing I need to address grief, for myself first.

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