Memoir Writing Reflections #5: Marinating Time is Over

After I finished the first round of drafting, I made the deliberate choice to not do revisions on my memoir manuscript since mid-January. Aside from reading the chapters for the reading event in March and organizing sample chapters for funding applications, I haven’t seen all of the other ones.

I don’t know why I chose a food-related analogy, but I thought letting the documents “marinate” for a few months is a good idea. My mentor author agreed. It seems like many other writers have done the same.

In those months I read two memoirs that have drastically different formats, which is equal parts refreshing and confusing. I suppose there is no truly one-size-fits-all approach.

I did my best to ensure my creative mind is not stagnant. I continue to write for the Alberta Filipino Journal, and some of my recent assignments were actually more challenging as they are more like articles or event summaries. Now that the weather is nicer I’ve also done some artwork again. And I try to write for this blog once a month. Heck, I even made a couple of submissions for a literary magazine. I got rejections both times.

Since I like scheduling and organizing, I’ve blocked a few hours on Sundays to start doing this again and actually booked it in my calendar like an event or appointment. I hope that the time I allocated is well-paced enough for the next two months, until I hear back from the different arts foundations where I submitted funding applications. I’m so very much looking forward to those. I’m excited to have professional editors look at the manuscript so they can chip away at all the awkward and ineffective bits and forge the final piece.

I organized my folders somehow like a factory production, where I have different containers (digital folders) to store various versions until it reaches the final version.

A computer screen showing several folders for a draft book. Each folder is for a different version of the draft.

What happened over the first four Sundays the self-revision time is scheduled in my calendar? I ignored them.

For the first two times, I don’t have any good excuse other than procrastination. Given I volunteer a lot in the city and I’m getting a lot of social media inspiration to deep clean my house, I have lots of alternative activities to do instead of reading through my files.

The third Sunday I have an actual legitimate excuse. My grandmother died and I had to focus on making sure I can communicate with everyone in the Philippines given that their time zone is 14 hours ahead. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings I’m still trying to unpack. On top of that, this particular grandmother, my mother’s mother, is an integral part of my childhood years covered in the memoir.

Now it’s the fourth Sunday of my so-called new Sunday routine to self-revise. I have so many volunteer tasks that I’m falling behind and I’m likely going to prioritize that.

In terms of the actual content I will likely not change anything since it is from the perspective of my childhood self. But my present-day self though, I’m just getting hit with more realizations and recently discovered family history that puts people’s behaviors into context. More nuance, less answers.

I even have other stories I wanted to incorporate somehow. Thankfully through the resources and advice I received I know I have a lot of options. I can write a whole chapter focusing on a experience. But it can also be as powerful as a paragraph, a sentence, or a phrase. It can be outlined as a story as it unfolds and experienced in real time, as an internal monologue, or a recent fleeting memory that can still be from the perspective of the child. This particular story I believe is very important and would enrich the reader’s experience of witnessing this orphaned girl trying to navigate a new reality.

This week I also submitted my report to the arts foundation that gave me the money, the grant, late last year. I’m supposed to report and show how I achieved my goals that I set out in that particular funding application. That was easy for me since the proof is very clear.

Now that grandma is buried and it’s my birthday month I really have to push forward with the self-revisions. That is, if my own existential crisis or health issues don’t get in the way.

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