Someone has pulled a time contraction on me lately. Either that or I'm slipping badly on my 'time management.' I'm in the throes of thrashing out a first draft of my own biography. A real vanity project in my view, but various friends and family have been trying to get me to do it for quite a while. It is proving to be a very interesting exercise, not least because it has opened some dusty cupboards I'd long locked and forgotten and it has occasioned a long hard look at the path my life has taken thus far.
The dilemma in an exercise like this is how much to reveal of the most private and intimate parts of your life, and how much not. Likewise, the choice between discussing the people and events which have a positive bearing is an easy choice, but being honest and open about the negatives can lead into extremely sensitive and tricky areas. There is a fine line between being frank and saying it like it was, and libelling someone - or at least damaging their reputation. OK, I know that my "life story' hardly compares to that of say, Lady Thatcher or Tony Blair, but one can never tell who will pick it up and read it even if it is privately printed in a very limited edition. One of my bosses once remarked if he did write his biography there'd be a libel action on every page.
Hopefully mine won't produce that sort of response from anyone, but there are still some delicate decisions to be made.
Anyone who has attempted this will know the feeling one gets when, for instance, trying to describe the circumstances prevailing in a dysfunctional family. If one explores the reasons for the dysfunction too closely, it soon begins to seems totally disloyal. Yet if you don't at least include some of that background, how will the reader ever understand some of the events that were a direct result of that persons problems/background?
Writing about one's own weaknesses and failings is a walk in the park emotionally by comparison.
I've now covered about half of my life so far, and I progress (alongside two other projects) slowly. I have realised already that I am going to have to go back to the beginning when I reach the present, and fill in some of the blanks I have skated over or evaded in describing my childhood and early years. When I do I'm going to have to confront a whole raft of loyalty issues alongside some pretty emotional ones. What I can say is that this exercise has brought a lot of things in my life into focus.
Yes, I think I can say it is cathartic, but in a very positive way.