From The Stage To The Page: What I Discovered Writing My Memoir!

“I love all insider memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s truck-drivers or doctors. I think everybody likes to go backstage, find out what people think and what they talk about…”

~David Mamet~


By Rick Amitin

07/31/2017

I had been a public speaker for over thirty years. I had developed the art of connecting with an audience, turning strangers into friends. Most of the time people found me entertaining, engaging, and useful. I was comfortable on stage. Maybe more comfortable there than anywhere. When I decided to write I expected an easy transition from the stage to the page. I was not prepared for the WWW – Written Word World.

THE LEARNING CURVE

I found out rather quickly that I had embarked on a journey I’d never imagined. I was loaded with a powerful message, full of potential… and I was a Red-Hot Mess. I had no formal training in writing. My command of oratory refused to accompany me into my new adventure. I was naked, in the dark, with the light on.

My reading habits were good but limited to one predominant genre. I had to learn what the different genres were before I could even decide which one I was intending to write. With some encouragement from family and close friends, I pressed into my mission. For hours at a time, I was alone with my thoughts and dream of writing a book. Little did I know that many consider a memoir the most difficult genre to write. Leave it to me to choose so wisely.

After months of flying solo, I joined a couple of writing groups. At the first meeting, of this “read what you’ve written and received a critique” group, I went into cardiac arrest with full blown paralysis. The feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing was immediate. I felt out of place. Thankfully, there were a couple of people who gave me a tiny glimmer of hope.

This group was heavily tilted in fiction. I kept going. learning, and gleaning wherever I could. I read everything available about the craft of writing, hovering like a chopper pilot in every how-to article I could find, tempted on every turn to label myself a fraud. Somehow, I remained resolute. I’m driven to communicate so, I had no choice, I had to stay in school. I still have a long way to go, and I’m sure I cause a few eyes to roll, but I have entered the arena.

Realizing that writers who are well trained and had been practicing their art form for years were not my competition, I accepted completion as my personal agenda. My message was mine to tell, and I had to stay focused on what was in my heart to do. I committed to learning on the job, do the best I could, and get assistance where I needed it. I’m proud of the story I told and the way I ended up telling it.

CLARIFICATION

I attended a three-day writers retreat, a great decision. I left the workshop with a matrix that would guide my steps the rest of the way. I guesstimate I wrote twelve versions of my book before it was honed into finality. The finished product looks very different than my original conception. I was thrown off the horse so many times that I wanted to kick the nag in the teeth. I remounted each time with the power of editing in my spurs. The Bucking Bronco eventually became agreeable.

My writing was weighted with excess and message killers that had to be trimmed and streamlined. There were times I felt overwhelmed and inadequate. As I plowed through the maze of this creative process, I slowly found my footing. Through the systematic dissecting of what didn’t work, I landed safely on what did. My story and message were breathing freely, on their own.

CONSTRAINTS

Memoirs are unique. By nature, they have a lot of moving parts and often involve other people. Some won’t be happy that you’ve decided to write about things that might put them in a bad light. Hey, they should’ve been nicer. These situations are best thought through beforehand – considering any possible negative consequences. Once your book is published, it’s forever forged in ink.

I chose to describe certain situations without naming names. This is a choice that many memoir writers will face. It’s a very personal decision and one you must make for yourself. In other places, I felt names had to be included to stay true to my message. I also left out things after concluding that they were not essential and could ultimately distract from the point I was making.

My wife and I found some areas of disagreement. I let the book sit for a couple of months while she and I worked through some difficult parts of my story that involved her. For me, it was not only important but necessary to honor her and acknowledge that we were not in the same place of healing on every point. Using respect as a tool, we derived a means for me to tell my story authentically and satisfactorily for both of us. I couldn’t be more thankful that we took the time we needed to get there.

Many memoirs have real life heroes. Deciding if that will be you or someone else is also a very personal decision. You can’t include your whole life in a memoir. I chose to leave some of my warts in while leaving some other missteps out. The basis of my memoir is about me coming out of dysfunction in wholeness. I invite readers to view my journey in hope that they will be excited about their own lives. Every memoir writer will need to determine their desired outcome.

AUDIENCE

It would be incredible if the whole world embraced your story. And, it is always possible that your book miraculously goes viral. The reality is much less dramatic. You’re writing because you have a message and that message has a likely target. Defining your market is important before, during, and after your book is finished. Everyone will not want or be ready for what you’re offering. Prepare yourself!

Finally

You wouldn’t be thinking about writing a memoir if it wasn’t doable. Whether you’re a polished craftsman or a novice wordsmith, your story matters. Write it.

~There is information and link to Rick’s book below~ 


Rick Amitin

Rick2

Rick Amitin is a Writer, Author, Blogger, Poet, Inspirational Speaker, and Founder of rickamitin.com. He’s a contributing columnist for Read My Mind Magazine and has published articles on various platforms. Rick traveled extensively as an Evangelist, Pastored for many years, and built a multi-million dollar insurance business in Los Angeles before embarking on the journey of personal transformation. Rick is a Certified Behavioral Analyst and a Transformational Life Coach. He is currently in development of an online training platform. Rick has attended numerous seminars in personal development with some of the leading voices of our time, Ford Taylor, Jack Canfield, Sanford G. Kulkin, and Kevin Knebl, CMEC to name a few. Rick is a former member of The Dallas Fort Worth Writers Workshop and the Writers Guild of Texas. He is a life-long student, and an avid reader and researcher. Rick resides in San Francisco, CA with his wife of thirty-five years.

His Book: 

‘If Only I Had A Dad: Finding Freedom From Fatherlessness’ by Rick Amitin

rick

Abandoned by his father as a small child, Rick Amitin survived a heartbreaking relationship with his mom and three stepfathers before he was nine years old. At fifteen, he set out on his own, traveling the world, searching for his dad, and finding it impossible to live happily without one. One misguided decision and painful consequence after another, Rick made his way through the military and answered the calling to preach. He lifted people across the country and around the world while the wound of fatherlessness wreaked havoc on his relationships and pursuits, making him grapple with his lack of identity and sense of worth at every turn, that is, until his grand boy dropped out of heaven and into his arms and catalyzed his journey of healing.

In If Only I Had a Dad, Rick’s raw-polish approach to sharing his story and hard-earned wisdom will help other fatherless men and women to:

  • Identify the True Cause of All the Messy Dysfunction
  • Discover the Power on the Other Side of the Pain
  • Become the Parent They Never Knew They Could Be

If you have been searching for your father, wanting the pain to stop, this book is for you.

rick2                            rick3


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16 comments

  1. Hello, Rick! I enjoyed your post. Like you, I never knew my father. But, unlike you, he didn’t abandon me. I just never knew him, and suspect he never knew about me. He was a sailor in WWII. My mom was a Marine. It was wartime, there was lots of uncertainty and fear. Oh, and apparently he was quite charming.

    I too have written a memoir. But mine is about searching for that father for medical reasons. I failed in that mission but instead found a big family. Our father got around.

    I went through the same things you did in writing my memoir. Happily, it is now finished. I’m about to send a proposal off to an agent. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Rejection is tough.

    Take care and keep up the good work!

    Like

  2. Rick, I enjoyed reading your inspiring account of writing a memoir. It’s a journey I am on too. My first draft was completed months ago, and the hard work of revising is hanging over my head now. Your post was a much-needed booster shot in my writing arm. Thank you. 🙂
    Blessings ~ Wendy

    Like

  3. Hi, Rick. After reading this well-written piece…yes, I agree – you’re certainly in the writing arena!

    You made a big leap realizing that other writers are not competition. I’ve discovered there are numerous mental transitions one must process while learning to write – some equivalent to lightning bolts. Sometimes embarassing to admit that we really don’t know much about ourselves. Writing forces one to uncover, or reconsider, certain personal mental aspects.

    Ahh, yes…memoirs are memories, which always include other people. Dealing with the role of others isn’t always simple nor positive – it’s a difficult process, as you so clearly describe. Exactly the reason it’s doubtful I’ll ever do a memoir!

    Thanks for this enlightening post – nothing compares with the experience of one being there! Congratulations for for working so hard to accomplish publication!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Slug. Thanks for talking the time to comment with such kind words. I have much I still want to do with my writing but, I’m very content with plowing through to get this book up and running. Best wishes for much success with all you do!

      Like

  4. Rick, I needed to be reminded to stay the course. Thank you for that! I find that as I work on my memoir it changes. I started thinking it would go one way and now I am on a different path. It is kind of organic and that kind of rubs the planner in me wrong. I planned to write a book this year…at least a first draft. I find it is half way through the year and I don’t feel any closer to my goal…however, the writing I am doing now is as much a part of my story as the ideas I thought I would be writing! Maybe even more so. I am finding that letting the writing come and getting it all down is better than following an outline. I figure once it is all down, it will be easier to organize…not the way I usually work, but maybe I am still learning new ways! Congrats on your book. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for your comments, Michelle. The book I published is nothing like the book I first envisioned. My writing often felt like I was trying to hit a moving target. Not every memoir is the same, of course, but mine was about healing my own life. Through the questions that formed I discovered answers to things that had plagued me my entire life. As I resolved things my story (message) changed. I would then have to rewrite sections to reflect my new understanding. I don’t believe there’s only one way to complete a book. You do have to clarify your intention, otherwise you’re writing to the abyss with no end in sight. I had to keep in mind that people who would identify with the pain in my story may not be able to identify with the pain being removed. Because my life looked so different by the time I finished my book I did a companion workbook to offer a means for others to see the actual steps I took to get there. My gut feeling is that you have a powerful story to tell. When your memoir is done with you – you’ll know it.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. RIck, I really enjoyed your post. I love both your perserverence and determination. Each step of the way, you went after what you needed to get you to where you wanted to go! You bring up some important points on Memoir writing. One of the most important one being – it involves other people! Lol! When I first started writing mine (which is still a work in progress) my husband said to me “Write your story, but leave me out of it!” What?!! I couldn’t write MY story without him being in it. We too took the time to work through this and have come to a place of mutual respect and agreement.
    Your post brings out many other important points that this novice finds of great benefit. I was also encouraged by your words at the end of your post, “You wouldn’t be thinking about writing a memoir if it wasn’t doable……..Your story matters. Write it.” I think I will put those words into larger than life print, then print out and hang above my desk for a needed push on days when things get tough…. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You made me laugh a little as I reminisced of some of those times I had to wrestle my emotions into obedience. What I thought would take a couple of months took two years. I kept healing parts of my life and that meant I was trying to write a story that was continually changing. I’ve had positive feedback from readers but, if my book didn’t help another person, what it did for me was totally worth it. You can do this! And, you’ll be glad you did.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow! Thank you for sharing this. So much of it is my own journey as a writer … feeling lost, out-of-place in a writing group … learning a ton at a three day conference … being overwhelmed at the expanse of writerly knowledge … and I agree – COMPLETION is the goal, for all of us. And then the next project lodges in my heart and I go on another journey in a different direction. This article was a big encouragement for me! Blessings!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I too find strength and encouragement from knowing that other people relate to my experiences. I think we are more alike than we are different. Best wishes for much success.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you, Rick, for this helpful post. Our stories, hidden away, are rarely quiet, as the thoughts, memories, and feelings intrude. But, you’ve made excellent points about what should come out and what should remain private – as with the subject of names.

    Your story is common but different in my world. Many addicted women had children and didn’t know the father. Abandonment, neglect, and, as one of my male clients said, “It’s an aching, gaping hole and I can’t fill it with drugs anymore, Ms. Marilyn.”

    You found your answers and I think your book will be a “must read” at the men’s recovery home.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I like to say, “If you have a hole – make it whole.” My missing dad had more of an effect than I realized. It wasn’t until I understood the root of my dysfunction that I found answers. One take-away for me is the discovery that we can father ourselves. Thank you for the work you do.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Great Job Rick! You are correct in saying memoirs are tough to write. What stood out for me was this from your post,

    “Realizing that writers who are well trained and had been practicing their art form for years were not my competition, I accepted completion as my personal agenda.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this. If I am competing, I feel winded from an invisible marathon. If I can progress on my terms I feel I am in control to do a better job.

    I will be buying your book soon my friend. I’m finishing one up now from another first book author.

    I really appreciate you sharing this story with us. John.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, John. You’re always sharing kindness. If we’re not helping one another then what are we doing? Isn’t it funny how we can wear ourselves out with things that are made up. You have no equal, my friend. Happy writing!

      Liked by 2 people

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