On Memoirs, Getting Lost in the Labyrinth

I’ve gone back to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for inspiration, this year. As I suffer through the exfoliation phase of writing and the need to purge my life through memoirs, I hope it will lead me somewhere once I’m through, however long it takes.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a You...

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Photo credit: Andy Field (Field Office)).

Portrait is alive with the senses. His writing is a reminder that we can make music out of the banal: art is available anywhere, to anyone who can receive and transmit it.

Joyce wrote Portrait prior to his masterpiece, Ulysses. Because it’s semi-biographical, I wonder if it was a necessary thing he had to do, before he could move on to Ulysses.

There is something to the fact that Joyce named the lead character after the Greek myth of Daedalus, father to Icarus, who gets trapped in a labyrinth of his own construction. Was Joyce relating to the myth, through his own process of writing and creation, getting lost in oneself? Or being damned by one’s own creation?

I only know a few writers in person, and one had a similar experience, of needing to get rid of a lot of personal stuff from the past, before he could go further. He hand wrote his life story, and then burned it.

Our other friend Patrick is publishing his first novel this fall. It took him eight years to figure it out, but he did.

It’s a complex, coming of age thing to have the audacity to write, to commit yourself to it. To assume the realization of sure-fire failure, and stick your face into it, despite.

If you can relate to this, please let me know what you think: why do people write memoirs?

I know many do to preserve their life as a record for their loved ones, but can it enable a writer to move on to something else?

See this lovely post from earlier in the week for more on writing, and Patty’s comment on the writing process.

Categories: writing

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14 replies

  1. I am nearning the dreaded end of the first draft of my memoir. The process has convinced me I want to write, and write more. Found myself at WordPress signing up just to make a comment, then realized after memoir, there is blogging, which I hope will open another horizon. Good luck friend!


    • Thank you so much for the warm wishes Amber; I wish you the same. This was a nice way to start my day. Congratulations on reaching that “dreaded end of the first draft.” I look forward to that (I guess) myself. I haven’t gotten rolfed, but I imagine it may feel the same way. Wish it could happen faster, though. Best to you and yours, – Bill


  2. I believe there is something to be said for getting all that personal history out of the way in order to really hunker down and do the kind of writing you WANT to do and not just the kind of writing you’re COMPELLED to do.

    My personal blog really helps me get a lot of that mess out of the way, so I can focus on fiction writing where the main character doesn’t strongly resemble me. I found early on that I kept tripping over myself in every story, because I hadn’t gotten the personal out of my head.


    • I am really glad you read and commented, thank you. Interested to hear more from you about this, as I read your blog and follow your fiction pursuits. Thanks, I needed some blog-kinship on this and I am grateful for yours. – Bill


  3. This is a tough issue for me. I really want to write more of my story, but I find myself blogging and feeling satisfied with that process and than of course really do not get into my small writing corner and begin my book..It is really a struggle for me. I also need to set up a foundation or non profit because when I do write my book I would like no profit from it ..I want it all to go to research or helping others. Many questions unanswered at this time as I continue to blog…….


  4. Hello Bill, This is my first visit here. I took the memoir plunge and I’m glad I did. If you have any desire to read about a highly improbable coming-of-age journey to find emotional truth, I invite you to visit (dogwaterfree.com). I have posted a brief synopsis and an extensive excerpt there for anyone who’s interested. And to anyone out there who is writing their own personal story, I encourage you to stick with it. To my thinking, if you can touch one reader with your story, the rewards are well worth the effort. Just my two-cents. Best to you, Michael


    • Hi Michael! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your work, and your advice. I agree…it’s inspiring to hear fellow writers share words of encouragement like this. Thank you! And I certainly have the desire to read your highly improbable coming of age journey…thank you. Best, – Bill


      • Would you happen to have any fmliay photo’s that were taken in Sterling that you would be willing to share? I live in Sterling and am interested in the history. Any photo’s that also include buildings are of interest.I remember your Aunt Francis and Uncle Dugan and Butch, they lived down the road from me when I was growing up.


  5. Oh I just stumbled across this post from nearly five years ago. You are in a different space now but I could so relate to this: ‘As I suffer through the exfoliation phase of writing and the need to purge my life through memoirs I hope it will lead me somewhere’. I too have had the same hope (ten years, ten drafts of purging, churning, twisting and now currently ignoring!!). How would you write this line now, five years on – or what have you learned about this purging process since then? I’m curious. Angela. PS Merry Cherry and all that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Angela! Love when people comment on old posts (and read them), how cool. Merry cherry to you too. Just landed in Seattle after 12 hours from Frankfurt today! Will mull on your note and reply here soon once my head is reasonably clear. Need to reread that post of mine too thanks! Bill


    • Hey again, I sent you a follow-up on this via email so have a look and thanks for asking. Merry Cherry as you say, and all that.


  6. Thanks for the shout-out! I have lots more to wax on about Joyce, but since he’s my favorite writer, I find I am really shy about how I write about him. Best, – Bill



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