Running Away to South America and Other Self-Care Strategies for the Tortured Memoirist


This week we’re writing about torturing our protagonists, about creating fictional worlds full of conflict and drama, which puts me in an interesting position since I am my own protagonist. Alas, I didn’t have a lot of choice in my plot line! So instead, I thought I’d write about the opposite: protecting myself as I’ve written and re-written and worked to publish Caged Eyes.

But first, can we agree memoir isn’t therapy? Sure the first few drafts were cathartic and illuminating. Sharing those early versions with safe confidants was often healing. But those steps were so small compared to this big long ultra-marathon of ultra-marathons that is book publishing. It didn’t help me that because I wasn’t an author prior to Caged Eyes, I had to complete that many more drafts as I gained competency as a writer. Working on this memoir required me to sit in a chair reliving trauma far past anything that could be considered healthy. Publishing Caged Eyes requires me to embody and own the story more than I’ve ever had to (and I’m not convinced that part is any healthier).

I’m pretty sure even my cat thinks this pile of drafts is a bit monstrous:


I don’t pretend to be handling this whole ordeal with much dignity or grace. I’m not sure what to say when people call me “brave.” Trust me, I’m not! I’m actually pretty whiny about the whole thing. It isn’t that I’m proud of that, but that I want to stay real with all the writers I know who are working on memoirs.

Somewhere along this process, I realized if I were going to continue, I’d need to forgive myself for just about anything I needed to do to get through it. At the risk of yet another confessional post, here is a list of my go-to vices, the vices which kept my behind in a desk chair long enough to make this book happen:

  • Eating all the brownies (and the occasional cookie)
  • Registering for 100-mile marathons (So that I have an excuse to literally run as much as I want. Extreme, yes, I know.)
  • Living in pajamas (Last month I splurged on the comfiest loungewear from OnePiece and basically I now wear little else. I mean, besides running clothes, obviously.)
  • Ordering take out (How I wish we had more delivery options like you fancy East Coasters!)
  • Taking long breaks (Okay, this one isn’t a vice. At one point, I put the manuscript in a metaphorical drawer for three full years.)
  • Owning nap time (With cats)
  • Utilizing pharmaceuticals (Also not a vice. I wish I had made the decision to go back on anti-depressants and anxiety medication much sooner. That shit helps, y’all.)
  • Being choosy about the people I work with (See my post earlier about waiting for an agent I felt was the best match. I was equally choosy about my editor. I never would have accepted Beacon’s publication offer if I didn’t think I could trust her with this vulnerable story)
  • Running away to South America a month before my pub date (It’s fairly inconsiderate to my book team to plan to disappear when so much will be happening, but when I emailed them to ask if it would be okay if I spent some time in the Andes Mountains trying to climb Mt. Aconcagua, they answered with a resounding, “GO!”)

…And go, I will!

Author: Lynn K Hall

Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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