Where Do I Begin?

{870 words — 3 minutes}

When launching into a new writing project, that is always the question. Just over a year ago, as 2022 was ending, I saved a long Comment that I made in a Facebook writers group I’m in. I copied out my Comment to keep track of it, with the thought that some of my Comments could work as entries, or at least as inspirations for entries, in a blog that I’d long been telling myself I should start.

By mid-January, I had 6 files that I put into an untitled folder, which I eventually named “A Writer’s Mind.” And over the months, it grew. And grew. I kept telling myself, “It’s time to start my blog.” And I didn’t because I didn’t feel I had a grasp on where to begin.

By December, the folder grew past 50 files. Still I hesitated, unsure of where to begin. Then, on December 30th, a new member entered one of my Facebook groups and, in introducing themselves, said, “I want to start on a memoir and haven’t a clue where to begin.”

I offered an answer. And in so doing provided myself with an answer, and at the same time provide the starting point for this blog, which will eventually evolve into a newsletter and a substack.

Start at the beginning . . . or the middle . . . or the end. In other words, start where YOU are inspired to write, not where any “expert” or friend who has written a memoir says to start.

Focus now on getting your story written, as messy and as out of order as it happens to be. That’s just your first draft, often referred to as “your crappy first draft” (honest, it’s called that by even the most accomplished of authors). Once you have all (or most) of the pieces, you can work on shuffling things around and editing, aiming toward your final draft. For now, focus on writing the story you need to tell yourself.

How you may present it in the end may end up looking much like you started writing it, or it may transform.

My own memoir, A MEMORY MOSAIC actually starts with a quote from a T.S. Eliot poem: “What we call the beginning is often the end. / And to make an end is to make a beginning. / The end is where we start from.…” So you can rest assured that “Where do I begin?” is a question many memoirists, novelists and poets ask.

After that beginning, my memoir (which in part speaks directly to “you,” a person thinking about writing or already writing a memoir) starts at the very end: “You have my memoir in front of you. Part of why may be so that, someday soon, readers may hold your story in their hands.” Then, in starting to tell the central memoir of the book, my trek to Nepal from April 1 to April 10, 1980, I jump not to April 1, 1980, but to an event in 2015, then to something that happened on April 2, 1980. Then it settles in to Day 1 of the trek. But then, in a series of brief sections after telling about each Day, I jump back as far in my life as to 1962 and 1963, and other years before 1980; I even travel back in time before my life to my mother in the late 1930s. And I jump forward to 1981 and other years after the trek, ending with lying awake in bed deep in the night in late 2022, thinking about something that (may have) happened in 1995, which made me think of a meeting with someone in early 2022. Finally, if all of this is not enough, the book offers a Coda, a fictional rendering of a scene from March 30, 1980, just before my friend and trekking companion, Chris, gets off the plane to join me in Kathmandu.

I know it sounds chaotic, but it was all intentional. And thankfully, beta readers have said that it all fits together well. Maybe because a central theme of the book is about how memory works, formed of many tiny pieces that we fit together.

If you want to see how I went about (the start of) all this craziness, you can see the first 30+ pages of my memoir at matthewkiell.com/writing.

[My Facebook Comment ended here.]

A few minutes after I posted my Comment, having saved a text file, I realized that I began the writing process for my blog a year ago. Moreover, I was following a similar model to what I created in order to write my memoir. Now, having enough pieces to feel comfortable about offering a blog, I know where to begin. I’ve launched the first entry of “A Writer’s Mind,” and I am off to the races. Or at least, following a guiding metaphor of memoir about a trek, off and walking.

So, dear reader of this first entry, you have my blog in front of you, and I hope you will continue on this journey with me, exploring a writer’s mind — not only mine but the multitude of writers and creators in this world, including yours.

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