Naming Our Abuse: Acknowledgments & Afterword


As I lay down my pen, so to speak, I ponder the seemingly endless stream of words that I have written over the past month. At more than 50,000 words, originally written, it is a book longer than the volume that inspired it. Thinking about it leads me to ponder how long I have worked in one form or another on a memoir, and how long I have delayed the practice, so I hope that as you have indulged me in the previous writing that you will let me ponder at least one more time about the process of writing a work such as this. Although in general I consider myself a fluent writer more in the vein of C.S. Lewis than in the labored perfectionistic way of J.R.R. Tolkien, not all of this particular book flowed easily. Setting oneself the task of writing roughly 2,000 words a day is an ambitious task, and having done so for the second time in less than a year is definitely not something I recommend for all writers. Nevertheless, some of the parts of this book flowed together surprisingly well, and given the fact that I have been attempting to write my memoirs for about a quarter of a century at this point, the process went dramatically well for what would make sense as a “volume one” of a memoir that is likely to be several volumes long.

Yet the fact that it took so long to write this one suggests the difficulties of the task. My first attempt at writing a memoir began when I was in elementary school. At the time we were given the task of writing a book (a very short one, I should add) and then having it lightly formatted into book form as a project in class. After writing a few pages of a memoir I was very unsatisfied with the tale, having attempted to write a straightforward chronological tale of my life, and so I decided instead on writing a collection of amusing limericks, perhaps the earliest examples of my poetry. The project lied dormant for a while, but later on while writing plays I found myself returning over and over again to the same scenes of childhood, and so I wrote a play that was designed to make for a set account of certain scenes so that I did not have to try to rewrite the same scenes over and over again in slightly different contexts while I was writing five dozen or so plays, many of which were semi-autobiographical. Even those efforts, though, were not a full memoir although they were certainly part of the story, especially since there were fictionalized elements. They were “based on a true story” plays, but certainly not the full monty, so to speak.

In recent years I have been bombarded with memoirs to read and review for publishers [1] and other memoirs, real and fictional, that I have read for my own enjoyment as a glutton for punishment [2]. Most of them were very unsatisfactory in encouraging me to write a memoir of my own life. This was largely because the memoirs usually had one of two story arcs, neither of which was congenial to any retelling of my own life. Some of the memoirs were written at the end of life, like Ulysses Grant heroically trying to finish his own memoir before death takes him, where a writer sought to take stock of his or her own life as it neared its curtain call. Clearly, as a man in my thirties, however burdened I am with concerns about health, I am not at the point where an end-of-life reflection is appropriate. Neither is the other approach, usually written after a marriage or some sort of relationship with marriage potential, in some cases, has been found, such that the memoir of difficult experiences has its fitting close in the successful achievement of the intimacy that has been desired. Yet sometimes it takes reading the right memoir in order to hit upon the strategy to tackle one’s own life, and once I hit upon a model that did not force a chronological organization and that did not assume a story arc pointed at either death or marriage, I was freed to write. And so I did.

It is my belief that not nearly enough writers show appreciation to their readers for the difficulty of having plowed through material to reach its conclusion. For example, at the end of reading some 1200 pages of a paperback version of War & Peace, one of the Great Books of the Western literary canon, it should be noted, I was subjected as a reader to an immensely dull 100 page essay on free will versus determinism, where Leo Tolstoy comments that the inertia of many millions of Russians made the attempts of Peter the Great, an undoubtedly great man, to modernize Russia hopeless, and so clearly determinism won out over free will. I hope that I will avoid the mistake of Leo Tolstoy in writing a tediously long afterword to a work that already demands a lot of a reader, and though my memoir is not nearly as long or complicated as War & Peace, it is certainly not an easy matter to read or understand, and those who have reached the end deserve my appreciation for having toughed it out. What allowed me to write this book was a conception of trauma as being an accident, one that had certain root causes and patterns in both its occurrence as well as in its aftermath. A book is an effort to take the messiness of life and to make sense of it, to put it on a bookshelf, to find a place for that which causes chaos and disruption, to file it away in a report that is hardly ever read, or to put on a shelf so that someone may pick it up, and turn its pages, and realize that they are not alone in the world, but that their story resonates with others, and that they too can take the trauma and suffering of their own lives and leave it as a gift to others in turn. If anything in the preceding pages has resonated with you, take up the pen yourself, and write your own story, and make sense of your own life, and speak of your own hopes and fears. My bookshelf has room enough for your own account, a burden that is not too heavy to be borne even by shelving that bears many such burdens and will no doubt bear many more ere my life is done.


To God, “for who am I, and what is my house, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18, 1 Chronicles 17:16)
To Andrew J. Schmutzerl, Daniel A. Gorski, and David Carlson, for writing in such a form that inspired me to write about my own life.
To those who read and commented on this project as it was ongoing and encouraged me to reach its conclusion.
To those who read it and understand from their own experiences, you are not alone, nor do you have to keep silent unless you choose silence for yourself.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Naming Our Abuse: Acknowledgments & Afterword

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Naming Our Abuse Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

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