Visibility in Memoir Writing: Your Presence on the Page

Nothing says visibility like video.
 
Which is why I’ve been making a video a day for the last week.
 
You see, after two years of wanting to make video and not doing it, I finally had to admit that my inaction had less to do with the excuse I was telling myself—that I am technically challenged—than it has to do with an old pattern of hiding.
 
What does a hiding pattern, which is to say a fear of being seen, have to do with writing?
 
As the saying goes, how you live one area of your life is how you live every area of your life. Hence, a seemingly benign hiding pattern that shows up as not making video, for example, can snake its way into your writing and keep you from being visible on the page.
 
Visibility is about being seen, but it has little to do with appearances and everything to do with presence.
 
When it comes to writing memoir, this presence is your voice, which is who you are on the page. For this reason, challenging an old hiding pattern “off the page” can translate into more presence in your writing “on the page.”
 
The fear of being seen often has its roots in a past experience, a time early in your life when ducking beneath the surface and not showing your real emotions or needs, i.e., hiding, was the safer row to hoe.
 
Are you beginning to see how hiding is the flipside of silence?
 
There comes a time when writing memoir that hiding beneath the surface of the page is no longer an option.
 
Because without your presence—i.e., your voice, you—even the most finely crafted prose can ring hollow.
 
So, what’s the antidote to a hiding pattern?
 
Taking action toward being seen, even when being seen makes you break out in hives.
 
For example, making video : ).
 
Which is why I joined a two-week online video course despite the fact that this is an unusually busy and inconvenient time for me. (Hint: a hiding pattern will always try to convince you that now is an inconvenient time to be seen.)
 
Every day our teacher, the incredibly generous video-goddess Holly Gillen of Holly G Studios, posts a video assignment. Our challenge is to make and post a video that same day.
 
As of Day 7, I have risen to that challenge. And what I’ve noticed, after just one week, is that I am more in tune with my writing self, I am showing up on the page from a deeper level of vulnerability, and I have less doubts about the story that wants to be told.
 
You see, when you begin to step out of hiding in any area of your life, you begin to be more present and confident in every area.
 
Including your writing.
 
What’s one thing you can do in your life right now that will require you to step out of hiding?
 
No, you don’t have to make a video and post it for the world to see!
 
But what is one action that you know in your heart of hearts will require you to be seen for who you are?
 
Make a commitment to do the thing that just came to mind, and to do it imperfectly.
 
Really imperfectly.
 
Because perfectionism is often roped tightly into a hiding pattern. After all, waiting until you’re perfect is the perfect excuse to not be seen. Perfectionism often shows up in writing as not sharing your work with others, not completing work you’ve started, or not submitting your work for publication.
 
To model taking imperfect action “off the page,” I’m posting one of the videos I made this past week.
 
Gulp.
 
The assignment was to tell Holly something we are grateful for. And, as it turns out, my answer has to do with being seen.
 
I’m wearing my Saturday clothes and no make up, and my office is kinda messy.
 
But, then, visibility is less about appearances than it is about presence.
 

 
What imperfect step do you plan to take toward visibility in your life, either off the page or on the page? Let me know in the comments. I am so cheering you on.
 

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11 comments

  • Keri March 25, 2015   Reply →

    Way to show up and be brave in video Marilyn! My step is to launch a warm letter campaign to introduce my new website.

    • Marilyn Bousquin March 25, 2015   Reply →

      Hi, Keri. Thanks so much for your comment. I loved being with you last week at the retreat. Put me on your list of warm letter recipients :)!

  • Susan March 25, 2015   Reply →

    So fun to see and hear you talk about something you are grateful for. Now I feel like I know you a little better 🙂 Your video has inspired me to submit something for publication, which I haven’t done in months. I just submitted a piece to seven different journals!

    • Marilyn Bousquin March 25, 2015   Reply →

      Awesome, Susan! Seven journals, YES! Which piece did you send out? Which journals? Can’t wait to read. And, wow, I can now say I am so glad I did not let my fear of posting an unpolished video keep me from posting it! Perhaps “off the cuff” videos will be a new (most unexpected) method for encouraging submissions?

  • Peggy Mangan March 25, 2015   Reply →

    Wow! I am blown away, what a great job!
    Congrats, Marilyn!

    Love,
    Peggy

    • Marilyn Bousquin March 25, 2015   Reply →

      Thanks, Peggy! Love backatcha, M

  • Susan March 25, 2015   Reply →

    Marilyn,
    I decided to vanquish my perfectionism and sent the Flesh of My Flesh essay. I sent it to Solstice, Narrative Magazine, New South, The Intentional (part of Creative Nonfiction), The Coachella Review, Prairie Schooner, the American Literary Review, the Missouri Review, and the Ploughshares emerging writer contest. A big reach for some, but why not – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    • Marilyn Bousquin March 25, 2015   Reply →

      Wonderful, Susan! I was just getting ready to post Ploughshares Emerging Writers contest on the Writing Women’s Lives facebook page. I’m pulling for that essay to find its very best home. And, as Anne Lamott so perfectly (ha!) puts it: “Perfectionism…will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” Yep.

  • Karen Donley-Hayes March 26, 2015   Reply →

    What a great post – and a great video – Marilyn! Boy, so much of life is about hiding (waiting for the “right time” to do something), isn’t it? Okay. Well, my imperfect step toward visibility is to actually promote/advertise Little Indigo Arts, my new side venture making jewelry/crafts. I actually started a shop on Etsy.com (https://www.etsy.com/shop/LittleIndigoArts?ref=hdr_shop_menu), but other than this parenthetical notation, haven’t “come out of hiding” with it. So. Gulp. Excellent prompt to kick my inertia to the curb. Thanks, friend – and it was so good to “see” you via your video! 🙂

  • Marilyn Bousquin March 26, 2015   Reply →

    HI, Karen. Jewelry! What fun. No more hiding this complement to your literary genius! I’ll plan to visit you at your etsy shop. Meantime, will I see you at the Riverteeth Conference in May?

    • Karen Donley-Hayes March 27, 2015   Reply →

      I hope you’ll see me at the RT conference in May… I need to get myself registered and stuff… yet another good prompt. 🙂

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