April 16, 2020
4 PM PDT | 5 PM MDT | 6 PM CDT | 7 PM EDT
Barry D. Hampshire
Journey To Self – Discovering Paths Beyond My Dreams
Over the past roughly seven years, I have written my memoir Journey to Self. It describes how a journey I took 42 years ago affected me and resulted in who I have become. In the last few years before retirement, I wrote short stories about my earlier life that I hoped my daughter may read, someday. As I looked at this mass of material, much of which related to the journey, I couldn’t deny that I I’d had and was still living an incredible life. There were lessons to be found that could help other people steer their own lives to maturity and/or fulfillment.
My first draft of the fifteen day, 5,500 mile journey from England to the eastern province of Saudi Arabia took only 45,000 words. After much self-reflection and multiple revisions, I came to understand that my driving journey did end halfway through the book. The full story ultimately finished with who I am today, based on understandings about life that I gained on, and because of, the journey.
I realized writing the memoir was a journey in itself, one that in many ways was more arduous than the drive. But that drive through cultures and landscapes in the late sixties was an act of defiance and redemption which had waited over sixty years to be brought to fruition. Due to a couple of unfortunate interactions with my mother when I was five years old, I learned that words were scary and potentially dangerous. I feared and hated words for all of my growing up and education, leaving me with a lowest pass-grade degree in computer science – not precisely a word-centric subject. I have struggled for years to build a relationship with words and writing. Seeing this book in print is one of the most proud achievements of my life, and there have been a number.
Points from Presentation
- Be flexible and non-judgmental with yourself. I was upset when I realized I only had 45,000 words and had completed writing about the journey itself. Try to accept where you are and allow your mind to wander down other paths that hadn’t been in your original thinking. The finish line is only a line in the dust in front of you. Allow the wind to blow away the dust and grant thoughts free-reign. A new finish line may blossom from seeds that you discarded as irrelevant earlier.
- Meet with a writing group regularly. Be constructively critical with each piece that is presented. Take note if you feel defensive when a comment strikes you – that is grist for your mill. I found the ending to my memoir when I was asked why I did something and why I did it for several days rather than just a few hours.
- Be prepared for a long haul. The writing of the first draft takes time and research. Rounds of editing and rework will seem endless. Depending on others will be necessary and they have other priorities and a life – sometimes you may have to feel like you are just spinning your wheels. In actual fact, be prepared, you will never finish the book, there are always details to tweak – but, eventually, you will abandon it.
- If you feel that your story will touch just one other human being, that is all you need to justify the effort and resources it takes to complete your book. If you receive an estimate for getting some professional help, double it for the sake of preparing a budget for the project. Writing and published a book is not a cheap endeavor, but the rewards will far outweigh the costs.
- Find people who you trust with your baby. You are working on a long-term pregnancy. You should be delighted and proud of the result. Not wanting to be a negative voice, but the honest truth is that there are less and less people reading books these days. So be prepared, you may not find the book selling as many copies as you hoped. But you just need that one person who will look down at your baby and be carried away in its joys and laughter, or pain and anguish, depending on the main theme of your memoir.
- Push back the negative thoughts and voices. Set a regular time to write each day. Ask your family to give you the space and time to focus on this new love affair that you wish to lose yourself in for a little time each day. You will return to your family’s embrace feeling restored and ready to engage.
I grew up in the suburbs of post-World War II London. It was grim place where people knew what a hard time was but kept doggedly moving forward each day, hoping to improve themselves. I learned to be self-reliant which opened me to the possibility of taking a computer programming job in Saudi Arabia. Doing that was a wake-up call: I discovered the world didn’t revolve around me. I learned about people, culture, history, language, relationships, and self-responsibility. I saw that my lack of education due to being a bad student could be mitigated, in part, by traveling and experiencing other ethnic ways of living. My eyes had been opened.
I recognized that I had a volume of stories and experiences in my head and started writing them down – sadly, in most of them I was “telling” stories, not “showing” them. Finally, I acknowledged that my drive to Saudi Arabia wasn’t a short story, it deserved to be a book. I took Linda Joy’s WriteYourMemoirIn6Months.com class and was mentored by her. She started moving my work along the road to publication. I later engaged other editors and a self-publisher to help me polish the memoir and self-publish it. My memoir went live in October, 2019 and I’m happy to still have the stretch marks.