Penning a memoir for the creative component of my creative arts PhD seemed like such a good idea a year ago. I figured that taking my personal history and reimagining it within an academic context would be a therapeutic process, that it would help me formalise my self as ‘subject’ and legitimise the seven years I have spent learning to write. I thought that it would be another interesting experiment in challenging the academic cringe at the use of personal pronouns. I figured it would be challenging, but not too challenging.
I was wrong.
There are two layers of judgements that are tripping me out right now. They are interesting, in a ‘look at that leech sucking my blood out’ kinda way. They are both so familiar to me but not in this combined cocktail.
Layer one of the judgements as new-ish. They are the literary judgements I have learned to apply to myself over the last ten years: Am I telling more than showing? Am I giving enough setting – will my readers even know where/when the story happens? Am I being overly adjectivey? Using too many series of three? Asking too many questions? These judgements are about my words, sentences, paragraphs (see, another three series). These are (kinda) rational questions for the author to ask. I can filter these judgements, put them in the ‘first draft, deal with later’ basket. I don’t mind these judgements too much.
Layer two are the old judgements, the ones that I’ve been hiding in my psyche since I was sprout. These judgements say things like: Stop being so self obsessed, who do you think wants to hear your whinging? Why don’t you just get over yourself? Why do you always need to be the centre of attention? Why can’t you just sit in the corner and be a good girl? A quiet girl? These judgements are always framed in the second person, they are accusations rather than suggestions. They all boil down to one thing: I am writing secrets, my secrets, my family’s secrets, the secrets of a history of abuse, criminality, addiction and unhappiness. Secrets do not like to be told and they defend themselves well.
I have decided to handle the second category of secrets the same way I am handling the first. This is draft land. Nothing I say, do or write here matters. The words cannot leap of the page and attack me. I will let the judgements have their say and then politely push them aside.