Josey Rose Duncan

The Write Site

Tag Archives: memoir

Resolutions

sunrise_symbiosis

New year, new you.

The cynical, raised-by-New Yorkers part of me wants to throw all the shade on all this New Year’s rebirth; on resolutions, on proclamations to workout/eat healthier/create more/love more/be more open to new ideas; on optimistic decrees of total transformation tied to turning, once more, around the sun; turning our calendars (metaphoric and literal) to a new page—an arbitrary page of an arbitrary, Gregorian calendar.

The hippie, Northern California-bred me thinks that’s because we should be always evolving and growing, always loving and creating and moving our bodies and stretching our minds. That maybe we should all follow the moon more.

But maybe no matter how arbitrary the calendar, there’s something to this collective reflection, dream-wielding, goal-setting. Maybe there’s power in people and numbers. Maybe more accountability.

New year, new you, new me.

New outlook. New goals. New recurring sleep-time dreams to analyze because they mirror the new, recurring conscious-brain waking dreams that reflect new goals and a shiny, bright outlook on everything new that’s coming my way.

New rad clients. New chances to creatively collaborate. New exciting bylines and projects on the horizon. (More news about that later).

New beautiful and mobile-optimized website (thanks to Stephanie Gardner designs). Because we are always on our phones and some of the time when we’re on our phones I want us to be looking at—and reading blog posts published on—my new, beautiful website. Because we’re all always evolving and I am also evolving—as a sentient being, as a writer, as the founder and president and proprietor and sole employee of my freelancing enterprise that maybe next year I’ll term empire—and our online presence is just another piece of our evolving-sentient-being-ness and this website is the first thing that comes up when you search for me.

New morning routine (lemon water, meditation, memoir writing. And the gym—because I like to move and stretch while I listen to Savage Lovecast and This American Life—even though maybe that one doesn’t sound as enlightened as the others). Because whenever someone successful tells their secrets it’s always about meditation and lemon water and rising at dawn to do handstands on mountaintops. And not checking your email right away, or maybe just scanning for important messages but not replying right away. And writing three pages long-hand without reading any of it back for three weeks. And swimming in the coldest and deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean without a wetsuit, or wearing a wetsuit that resembles a seal’s skin, on the back of Great White sharks who’s gnashing teeth grin for you, alone, because of the lemon water you drink every morning on the tops of mountains posed in a one-handed handstand. Or something.

Renewed motivation to finish my memoir—and get it published for you to read. Which should happen now that I’m drinking lemon water every morning. Which should happen now that I have another year’s distance from the subject matter (so to speak), a year of mourning, of morning routines (however fledgling they’ve been before). A year of deepening so many friendships and letting a few fade; of my brother moving back to the U.S. from Russia after seven years; of brighter colors and bared souls as I strive to live, even more, in each settled moment. Of sadness: Watching a family friend I call uncle suffer a stroke and fall into a coma, of the wait-and-see of it all, as he lies, slowly recovering but still unconscious, in his hospital bed. Of trips to Austin, Texas, and to Symbiosis Gathering; to Portland, Oregon to officiate a college friend’s wedding in the city where we went to college. A year of many Megabus rides to Los Angeles and Sacramento spent staring out the second-deck window of the double-decked bus listening to whatever three songs on repeat sound the most like the sounds the synapses in the most wrinkled crevices of my brain make when they talk to each other. I really think you’ll like what I’m writing. I really think you’ll read it soon, too. New you, new me. New year.

Happy 2016. What do you resolve to do new?

—Josey Rose Duncan



Write the uncomfortable story

bathroom selfie

I’m a big fan of memoir and personal essay, which are shooting-the-shit-over-a-couple-drinks’ (an activity I’m also a fan of) slightly-more polished cousins.

When writing (what I’ll term) “personal stuff,” we tend to mine for topics our tough times; the unhappy milestones most of us—all of us?— experience. Death and illness and abuse and heartbreak. Loss of all kinds. Maybe it’s a childhood. Maybe one indelible moment. On and on and on.

No matter your topic, the point is: to make an impact on your audience, write the uncomfortable story. Don’t assume you know what others will find profound. Don’t assume you know yourself where the heart of your story lies until you start digging and dig past—way past—where you expected you’d stop.

Throughout the painful process of separating from my husband I told myself, I should write something about this. I wrote (literally) 10s of 1,000s of words and all of it was trash. I wrote poems. I wrote personal essays. I wrote something I thought might become a memoir. I wrote non-fiction disguised very poorly as fiction. All of it was garbage. But I came to realize it’s because my approach was all wrong: I didn’t humble myself enough to write honestly about my role in the split, the ways I hurt him, the ways I embarrassed myself. I had to dive into the mess and the myriad grey areas, write about the parts I never wanted to reveal.

There are a million divorce stories out there and what makes the moving ones moving are the details, the writer’s personal and unique perspective. My divorce story (and poems and essays) sucked so hard because I wasn’t digging deep enough. In some vain and semi-subconscious attempt to protect my ego I was writing a story both boring and cliche. I had to write the uncomfortable story.

(A group I’ll term) grown-ups tend to be critical of today’s youths’ over-sharing, TMI culture—the personal details in their status updates, the endless selfies. As an early 30-something on the eldest edge of the millennial generation, I’m torn between critiquing this behavior and kinda-sorta-sometimes joining in the fun.

But maybe the kids are alright. Maybe if we look deeper at the public personal reveals, curated as they are, we can see this over-sharing—well, some of it at least—as inspirational. While admittedly the voyeuristic part of me (don’t judge) wants to read your day’s daily details, maybe there is something valuable here for even the non-creeps among us, amidst the party snaps and emojied vaguebooking. We all have friends and family who see nothing wrong with broadcasting their every emotion, including their darkest days, on Facebook (and Twitter and Instagram)—and you know what? Go, them. From them maybe we can learn something.

Write the uncomfortable story. Delve into the greyest areas, the places where right and wrong blur, bleeding into one another, the stories where there’s no obvious winner and loser. Dig deep. Write the thing you don’t want to write, the story you thought you’d never, ever write. Over-share. Give ’em TMI. Because that stuff’s powerful. That’s the kind of personal writing that moves people to feel things. And you know what? It’s good for you, too.

 

—Josey Rose Duncan