When I wrote it was time to get a grip on the narrative of my autobiography in issue #4 I wasn’t kidding. It’s a flipping beast!
Sorry to report I’m nowhere near that goal and the thing keeps growing.
Because I have written so many autobiographical pieces over 50 years, I’m constantly finding new and important work to incorporate. I have to choose to either mine the artifacts or focus solely on writing. I don’t think it’s an either/or thing.
I’m leaning toward mining artifacts until I run the seam.
The writing is the most engaging part of this work so I can’t imagine avoiding it completely. Thing is I need to understand the scope of what is to be included and I’m nowhere near seeing the big picture.
Yesterday I was reading folders of my undergraduate papers. Was I ever an undisciplined student! I marveled at how a teacher would provide a three-page, single spaced, type-written response to one of my papers. I don’t know if they did it every time, or if I was getting special attention. In any case, it was remarkable.
At the same time, my Shakespeare teacher was exceedingly brief. He used a pack of 3 x 5 index cards for his lectures and they were stained with age and the nicotine tar from his constant tobacco smoking. We knew class was finished when he crumbled his cigarette package, after chain-smoking the remaining cigarettes, and threw it in the waste can.
It is remarkable I continued as a writer after the drubbing I received getting my degree in English. Nevertheless, I persisted.
To provide a better working framework for collecting past writing, I designed what I’m calling a book tree. It is a brief outline with the current 37 chapters, or sections where I can park existing writing as I find it. Half of the draft is migrated there. Once I run the seam I can take each chapter and create a better narrative that will build toward a rough draft. It’s going to take me all year to finish, although I knew that at the beginning.
It did help to lay out the 37 chapters. While it may not be the final number, it serves as a meditation guide for contemplating my life. The more I do that, the better will be the narrative. At least that’s what I believe mid-February in the project.