Writing Your Autobiography to Understand Your Inner World

note: I had written this originally for Introvert, Dear, but I don’t believe they plan to publish it. In any case, I felt it was still worthy of being out in the world.

When I declare myself an introvert, people are shocked. “You?!” In their interrobang, I hear but you’re so opinionated/loud/funny/good with customers. What they don’t know is that once I go home from work, I can barely speak, or move, or even think, from all of the overstimulation of the day. I have anxiety. I have depression. I have introversion.

And while I don’t think so much of those things as diseases or “bad,” I do spend many days wishing I was “normal”, or an extrovert. How great would it be if that coworker I’ve been talking to for weeks about books asked me to hang out, and I could say “Yes! I’d love to!” instead of “Yes, I’d love to, but I’m so ‘busy’ this week!” If I didn’t have to cancel established plans with established friends who I love, or didn’t have to be afraid of seeing people I know at the grocery store or the library. Thank god I moved across the country!I think often. Now there are much fewer people to run into!

Introversion is being on low battery no matter how much I charge up. It’s being happy during experiences, but being nervous and having self-esteem attacks before and after. It’s clinging on to my boyfriend so tight, that even I wonder how he can breathe. It’s being afraid to explore the endless possibilities in life that would be open to me if I could only unfurl and uncurl myself a little looser. It’s pushing my own boundaries so hard, I don’t have time or patience for those who ask me to push harder. It’s not speaking up for myself at work or school or in life. It’s taking a toll on my relationships with family. Taking a toll on my health. Taking a toll on me.

Recently i started journaling more heavily. I have been writing or journaling in some form or another since childhood – for twenty years I have been an examiner of the universe through writing. And recently, I have turned the examination lens inward.Who am I? Why am I? How can I change, how can I grow, and how can I stay true to my introverted needs while simultaneously letting the sun shine on my face?

For starters, I must continue to look inward every day. It might seem counterproductive for an introvert to look further inward, but here me out here. One of the questions I asked above was, Why am i? In order to figure out the answer to this question, I went back. Way back to 27 years ago, to be exact. I began journaling not just about the present, but about the past. I have been journaling my autobiography, and I really must insist that you do this too, if you have any inkling that it might work for you.

  1. Write down your date of birth, and then number the page with the ages you have lived through. 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. Make sure to leave enough space to write a paragraph for each age.
  2. Obviously, the first few years of your life (and maybe others) won’t be available for recollection. That’s okay. Just write down “the facts.” For example, I know I was born blue, with a heart condition, and had to be moved to another hospital for life-saving surgery. My parents were very young. I was their first child. And so on. As you get into ages 5, 6, and beyond, you will find that the very act of writing jogs your memory. This space is just for bullet points, or the bare bones. You will remember even more eventually.
  3. Once you have your outline, go back to age one (though I guess you could start from anywhere, I personally think it best to go in chronological order). Now write your life not in bullet points or half sentences, but in full sentences, maybe paragraphs and paragraphs. Let it all out on the page.
  4. Repeat  this for every age. Take breaks. Split up the ages between days and weeks. Don’t burn yourself out. Also you will probably find yourself remembering new piece to the puzzle at random. This is great. Your brain is unblocking itself and allowing itself to open up, even if it is only to you.
  5. Eventually you will start to see a pattern about what excites you, what scares you, what has happened to you, and what has happened that was in your control. You must examine your own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others. It may not be pretty, but it will change the way you see certain things.
  6. Write about other things too. Just journal every day, no matter what about. It is really, really healthy and good.
  7. Once you are caught up to the age you are now (I still have not caught up and I’ve been doing this for months), make it your mission to keep your journal up to date with new happenings and examinations. You don’t want to have to play catch-up again when you are 100 (if you are blessed or cursed to live that long).

Through journaling this way I have learned so much about myself, my friends, and especially my family. It has encouraged me to think more deeply about people’s actions and words, as well as choose my own more carefully. And I have begun to form a plan to follow after I graduate with my Masters degree in May. A plan to live my best life, introversion be damned. I intend to achieve my dreams, or die trying. But don’t take this the wrong way – I don’t desire or expect to give up the introversion that has made me, me (nor do I think there is or should be a “cure”). I only desire to continue to use introversion to see inside myself and learn what I must do in order to thrive.

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the autobiography project

It might seem silly when I tell you to “write your autobiography.” You’re not famous, you don’t feel worthy, you don’t think anyone would care, or just plain simply, you don’t think you need to or even want to for yourself. But you should! One day your memories won’t be so sharp. They’re already starting to fade. As it is, we make up so much of our memories anyway. It’s better to get the ones you remember out now rather than keep them inside until they shape-shift, warp, and disappear.

I keep a diary, but I’m not always “good” at it. It’s not organized. It’s not about my day or even about significant life events. There are redundant entries and lists and notes about lectures or events on reading and writing. Just a place really for me to dump my thoughts. But a few years back, when I had some free time on my hands after college, I decided to write it all out, chronologically, by age/grade, starting with birth.  I want to remember my life, both the agony and the ecstasy.  What started out as a few bullet points per year now has all of my memories racing at me at once. i can barely write down the outline before the next bullet is hitting, and as i write each sentence from the bullet point, things get clearer and clearer, until i am facing the past and moving forward wth my future at the same time. handwriting it is making it more personal, and now it will be in my diary forever. I also now have the opportunity to see patterns, and learn from the past, as well as see the direction I am heading in the future.

I never want anyone to read my diaries. They showcase the good, the bad, and especially the ugly. They are all mine, but they are sacred to me, no matter how messy or muted my life is, I have a place to explore it, and I want to put it to good use. In addition, I freewrite, use journal prompts… etc. I spend hours exploring the internet looking at diaries and bullet journals and art journals and planners, and I will probably never share more than a page or two once every few years of mine. But that’s okay. I like my journal the way she is. Unpredictable, like me.

journaling/planning crisis

I just put into words for myself why I vacillate between paper and digital with planning and journaling etc. To break it down for you, I spent most of my school years (grades 6-senior year of undergrad) with a paper planner. I then had a year off from school, and once I started my first semester of grad school, I was into OneNote. But even as someone who uses ON, I don’t even use it to the best of its capabilities (I’ve seen some amazing spreads on tumblr!). I use a standard “notebook” and keep my to-do list in it, about a week or two at a time, and erase as I go. It mostly works for me but here are my issues:

  • I wish I could keep the old lists, but that involves moving it over into another page or notebook, and using up the space (I don’t pay to use this program so I have limited space). [Also this isn’t so important as my “lists” don’t always consist of anything important – just menial tasks for that day].
  • I tried to keep a paper planner where I would write down important things that got erased, but I fall off the wagon with this a lot.
  • When using only a paper planner, I dislike that I cannot easily “move things around.” My friend suggested using a pencil, but it doesn’t feel fancy enough, and I’ll never go back and rewrite with a pen if I want it to be more permanent.

 

These are very first-world issues and very specific issues to me. Usually by the time I write about a problem publicly, I have already went through every possible solution. This digital/paper problem bleeds into my journaling life too.

I like to journal, but the thoughts roll out fast. I type them so that I can get it all out, but then I wish it was written in my notebook. I often find myself transcribing into my notebook whatever I wrote in my computer document. This works well unless I have written a large amount of typed pages, or if i begin to self-edit as I copy into my journal.

My family got our first computer when I was six, in 1996, and my computer time was very limited until college. I was used to writing everything by hand be it a journal entry, a short story or poem, or homework (unless it was mandatory to be typed). I am a millenial and I love my technology. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I also adore planners, art and written journaling, bujos, the works. I don’t want to give up my love for either digital or paper but my time is not unlimited. I think we make time for things we love, and I definitely do make time for these things, but perhaps I could make more. Especially for the journaling and art journaling.

Tell me how or why you journal or plan the way you do.

White Teeth; Zadie Smith

I just finished reading White Teeth for my class on Narrative Structure. Goodreads is full of mixed reviews. There are those who find it brilliant, and those who find it boring. I am the former. I underlined and circled and notated so much. I was reading four books at the time, (White Teeth, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, and Bird by Bird) but kept coming back to this one.

Here is my favorite passage:

“A neutral place. The chances of finding one these days are slim… The sheer quantity of shit that must be wiped off the slate if we are to start again as new. Race. Land. Ownership. Faith. Theft. Blood. And more blood. And more. And not only must the place be neutral, but the messenger who takes you to the place, and the messenger who sends the messenger. There are no people or places left like that in North London” (378).

I know that this place might be impossible to find. I know that might even be the point of this passage – that such neutrality is beyond our grasp. But I like to work towards the future I envision. I don’t know what I’m trying to say except for this book spoke to me, and made me think, and comforted me, and hurt me, and I know I am late to the Zadie Smith show, but I’m glad I tuned in.

not a review, a meditation

There is a saying: the cure for anything is salt – sweat, tears, or the ocean.

 

The ocean is full of secrets and dreams. it has the power to cleanse, to heal, to pull you under. They say salt – the kind in tears, sweat, and the ocean – is everything. The ocean is beauty. To quote Andre Breton, french surrealist of the twentieth century, beauty will be CONVULSIVE, or not at all. Synonyms for convulsive include, but are not limited to: fiery, hazardous, stormy, raging, perilous, uncontrollable, unstable, bursting, wild, violent… the list goes on and on. Nadja, with it’s dreamy and sometimes nightmareish prose, is certainly convulsive.
I always say love and hate are not opposites. They are twins. The same goes for the above words, and beauty. Nothing beautiful is easy. Nothing beautiful is still or easily controlled. Roses have thorns. The ocean can pull you under. Even the sun burns. You cannot touch a butterfly’s wings or it will die.  “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all” is the truth.  It means that with everything in life, you will have positives and negatives. The most pure example of this is LOVE. Love is patient, love is kind… but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes love is working through pain and hard times. Love can make you feel every emotion. You sometimes could not be happier, sometimes your heart is quite literally broken. Love stinks, love hurts. But for every low, there is an impeccable high. Where dreams are brought to realization. A love for writing, what was once an ideal, is now a fiery passion I fight for each day. The right to exist in this space. The right to worship at the altar of voice and courage and the grotesque beauty that is life, and committing life to record for future civilizations.

As detailed in my last post, I have so much writing planned, and I am very particular. I want everything to flow a certain way and I have so much to say, but I am feeling self-conscious. I have people I want to write about, at least where their story overlaps my own; I’m feeling vulnerable. In the first essay collection, One Dark Thing, I detail times in my life of deep pain. There are pieces about friendship gone awry, my body, and even a piece about someone who got away. I have to dig deep and go to a really emotional place and let go of inhibition, but I am scared. What if it’s draining? What if people hate me after they read these pieces? (Everyone – not even necessarily the people who I’m writing about). Okay, well it’s one thing for strangers and acquaintances to hate me, but what if my close friends, my partner, my family judge me?

How do writers write without feeling insecure? How do they push through it? How do they write with such vulnerability knowing their mother is going to read the piece. How do I tell my family I might not even want them to read my work?

On a different note, I submitted a piece to a literary magazine in November and it is MAYBE getting published. They are still culling through the submissions, making sure the collection is cohesive, et cetera. It was a big step for me to finish the piece, and then edit it without prompting. It was a big step for me to submit it. I really, truly, definitely want this piece included in the collection but if it isn’t, I’m still proud of my work, and I will make it better and submit it elsewhere. The older I get the less time I have for my own bullshit. I want to be a writer. So while it’s lovely that I have all of these ideas, it’s even lovelier that I am sitting down and actually writing them and making plans to publish them. I am ready.

an invitation

INVITATION by Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er. a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

I am a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer and a pretender. Because I am a writer. I was born a writer, I will die a writer. I am also a person who likes deadlines, and to-do lists, and unambiguity. So I have given myself a deadline for my first essay collection (I have eight possible essay collections, five retellings, eleven original novels, some short fiction, children’s stories, three spec scripts, and many ideas that have not fully formed yet planned…)which I will self-publish on kindle. And I will be attempting to chronicle my journey along the way while I finish my Master’s,  and finish the essay collection, and there will be more posting about the personal on this blog as well. My writerly journey is personal, but I am excited to share it with you. If you would like to tell me what you want to know more about, I will be happy to share with you. Please email kil1thewaitress@hotmail.com with any suggestions, comments, questions, concerns.

 

Things that might come up –

Bookseller musings, Writer musings, reader musings, my coffee recipe, francophilia (both james franco and france), smoker musings, team jess musings, art musings, sexuality, yoga, portland…. and anything you suggest that i truly feel i can write about.