Yeah, so I set fire to my book last year: every page of it, after a minor and tearful ceremony, in the brick cavity of an undersized fireplace in an average vacation rental on the McKenzie River.
(This wasn’t the children’s book—that’s what I wrote to make myself feel better after I burnt up the “real” book).
I did this not because it was a pile’o’crap, but because it was consuming me. Four rewrites and five dozen rejections and the thing had taken on a life of its own; its rejection, my own; its subject, my identity.
The thing about memoir is that it’s easy to take a bit too personally, as well as make you begin to treat your life like a Hollywood movie.
As I was living, I was thinking about the book constantly. “Is this the climax?” I’d ask myself. “Is this thematically relevant?” Finding the ending had become a bit of a quandary because life kept on happening while I was trying to write. “Should I wait another week—will the happy ending show up by then?”
This process was eating me alive, not to mention keeping me from enjoying the day-to-day imperfect beauty of my own wacky life rather than trying to turn it into a plot point.
So I lit fire to the thing. It was instantly, wholly liberating. And, within a week, I started editing it again. (I hadn’t burnt up my hard drive; no, I am not quite that fond of finality, or commitment for that matter.)
“So you burnt it like the phoenix?” my sister asked, kindly, but sarcastically.
Yes. I burnt it like the phoenix.