Resistance is part of the writing life. I’m always scared before I dive into a new manuscript, or the redraft of an old one.
For me, resistance before starting a novel and resistance before starting a memoir are different. With a novel, it’s like setting sail on a vast, empty ocean. I have to find my way to shore on the other side of the horizon, with nothing to guide me but hope and a dicky compass. With memoir, I go through a period of self-doubt that can go on for months or even years.
Writing a story is like a conversation between the imagination and the conscious mind. This is how the conversation flows when resistance possesses me:
Imagination: I really need to write a memoir. I’m tossing around a couple of ideas.
Conscious mind: Why would anybody be interested? My life has been so dull.
Imag: I need to write this. That’s all I care about.
CM: I wish I’d had a big life, something worth writing about. Travel to the Antarctic. Working as a prostitute. A year living off the land in the Kalahari Desert. Something that’ll catch people’s florid imagination.
Imag: Most people live small lives.
CM: Exactly! When they open a book, they want something different. They want to live an adventure vicariously.
Imag: Is that what you want?
CM: No, but we both know I’m weird.
Imag: What do you want from a memoir?
CM: The same thing I want from a novel. I want to know how someone else lives, how they struggle with their internal antagonist, how they fall or triumph.
Imag: So, isn’t that what you give them?
CM: I’m so boring. I’m really, really boring. Nothing happens in my life. I never travel. I live in the same place, closed in by four walls. I do most of my socialising on FB. I’m a loser.
And so it goes until my imagination has soothed my conscious mind’s fears and I start to write.