I’ve recently written a memoir from death row. To any aspiring authors thinking of doing the same, think again. It’s an arduous task trying to sum up a life, while in the process of living it.

It’s taken nearly nine years to write, felt more like twenty, and yet still feels somehow incomplete.

Remember how you’d get nicked as a kid and how mom would hug you up, put a band-aid on, and you’d be good to go? Then in a day or so she’d sit you down to take it off? You were nervous but she’d adroitly avert your attention and snatch it off. You prepared to scream bloody murder but she’s right there and before you can utter a  sound, you realize it’s all done and you have a nice little scar to show off to your friends.

Writing a memoir is not like that. Each word pulls the band-aid off slowly, catching hairs, pulling off skin, and ringling fresh, exquisite pain from old wounds.

It shines a light on experiences you thought had been good and reveals them to be illusions. What’s more embarrassing is realizing you’ve been duped all these years. Then comes a sickening feeling, the awakening, that you knew all along but said nothing – out of fear – because, well, life can be scary sometimes…

You’ve heard the expression, that “hindsight is 20/20” but nothing prepares you for this. The light of the mind misses nothing.

The curtain will lift on past relationships. Chills will run up and down your spine as you conjure up looks of contempt you thought had been smiles, and bitter resentment you naively mistook for friendly banter.

You’ll sit aghast as your world shrinks before your mind’s eye. You’ll feel alone at depths you never knew existed. You’ll curse all the people who said “You should write a book.” You’ll hate them. I mean, who are they to be going around advising people to write books, all willy-nilly? How many books have they written? Only licensed professionals should be allowed to dispense such advice. 

But then you’ll forgive them, realizing your taking on the task had more to do with your own vanity than with any sagacity on their part – a lot more.

Although just a stack of papers, the book will become an entity, taking on a life of its own. You’ll begin to refer to it in ostentatious tones. You’ll call it “The manuscript.”

People will feel the need to comment on it: “My aunt wrote a book,” or “Every time I see you you’re writing” or “I can’t wait to read it” or “That’s amazing”. But deep down, they’ll despise you because people don’t like people who think they’re smart enough to write a book.

When you think it can’t possibly get worse, it does. You’ll quit. The heat of the light burns. The microscopic penetration of discovery is unmerciful. You won’t want to close your eyes, or even blink. You’ll lay in bed curled up in the fetal position. You’ll fall asleep in a depression and wake up weeping buckets you even didn’t know you had in you.

You won’t be able to write for days, weeks, months… The manuscript will seem to taunt you. You’ll want to rip it to shreds. You’ll want to burn it. You’ll want to toss it over London Bridge, and you won’t even be in London. It will gnaw at you night and day but you won’t be able to destroy it because it’s your life…

If you’re like me, you’ll finish. My father quit on me before I was born. The one thing in life I’m guaranteed to do is finish what I’ve started. He’s a ghost I can’t see but can always feel. For better or worse, I’ll never be like him.

I finished a few months ago. It’s somewhat of an accomplishment I suppose, although it seems a pyrrhic victory. Here I stand, battered, bruised, and bloodied; while the manuscript stands tall and pristine: typed, re-typed, and typed again.

While your life is undoubtedly better than mine, I’d still advise against writing your own memoir. If your life is that interesting, let someone else do it. It’s not an endeavor one should take on oneself. Feel me? However, if you want to know unequivocally where you stand on this earth then there is no greater measure.

Anyone standing with you after your memoir is completed is your true friend. And the difference between a friend and a true friend is as the distance East is from West.

But even if you find that you stand alone, enjoy the company. You’ll be enough.