Writing my memoirs

Writing my memoirs, a new challenge I have undertaken.


What a Challenge.                                                       May 2019

I am an avid reader. I read all the time, and I still wish I could have more time to indulge in reading good literature. I schedule time each day, for an hour, at least, to sit and read. For a one-week vacation, I would pack two books to read. On a two-month Snow Bird get-away, I would pack 5-6 books. I belong to a fabulous Book Club with like-minded readers who challenge one another and the group with a wide variety of books and stimulating discussions.

A memoir of the Hungarian Revolution
So then, how hard could it be to write a book? I asked myself this question! Well, it is hard!

Six years ago, to be exact, on the urging of our two sons, I decided to loosely write down my thoughts on our escape from Hungary during the 1956 Revolution. I established my focus, the basis of my framework, now how do I start? I took several Writing Workshops where I learned how to organize my thoughts, how to develop an outline and a timeline, and learned what I was really trying to accomplish was writing a memoir of a “slice” of my life of a moment in time, as it was described to me!  Even though I was a young, an impressionable child of 9, at the time, I still remember how the events unfolded and how they changed my family’s life forever. I needed to consolidate these events of the moment from my own experiences and from my perspective.  I just had to develop a tunnel vision and get to the writing stage. Not easy!

I had to understand first my topic and the human history behind it. Refugees, immigrants and their quest for a stable life are not new and they are in the news frequently. I spent several months jotting down my memories; expanding on my thoughts and verifying facts. My mother was the best source of knowledge and inspiration who would often encourage me to continue to plod ahead. Each time we reminisced, our memories had more clarity, more facts were discussed, so I quickly documented them. But the memories weren’t enough! I needed some historical facts, some context in which my journey took place.

Revolution research
I spent several years on and off researching the history and the unfolding of brutal events in the Revolution and the people who were caught in it. Once I had all that information, scribing it into coherent sentences and paragraphs, became another matter. I worried about syntax, sentence structure, tenses and the use of vivid, detailed adjectives. But frustration set in. Consequently, I gathered my notes, my computer, my resources and put them all away for a long period of time.

During this break, I read a lot of history, a lot of memoirs and a lot of autobiographies just to get a sense of the authors and how they captured the attention of their readers. I needed to have an example, a model after which to fashion my writing.

So, I started up again! But I found it very difficult to incorporate our family’s reality and events into the historical context of the Revolution. I spent two more years writing, re-writing and re-writing that too to stay true to the history and experiences. I continued to take more workshops, surfed the Net and opened many links along the way for more information which I studied more thoroughly, and pieced together events, trials, failures and successes until I was satisfied with the first draft. Eventually, I had 18 hand-written chapters tucked away in a notebook. All I had to do now was to download these chapters onto my computer.

Well, I am still writing!  I only have 13 chapters on the computer, and it is going very slowly. The reason for that?  I discovered, that I am faced with a new challenge. As I am writing from a notebook to a computer, I change my wording and even my thoughts, so by the time I am finished with a chapter, I will have something entirely different than my original script. Then I think of my audience. Would anyone like it, or, who would even want to read it? But then I reflect and realise that I owe this memoir to my parents and to my two sons. I must continue! And so, it goes!

My editor frequently will have wise words of wisdom for me. “Just get the rough draft on the computer first, then deal with the details later!” Good advice! So, says, he! But I have heeded it!

In conclusion, I must say that as much as this has been a real struggle with challenges and writers’ block, I have learned so much of my history, of human behaviour and the resilience of our family. The immigrant story is the same generation after generation. The journey may be different, but the message is the same – to create a stable future for the children. I learned through my writing that hard work, few language skills, and strong determination will give one that life. Hopefully, these same skills applied well and frequently will produce my memoir too! And soon enough!


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