Often, while in the possession of the demon called the memoir, there is a sense of a brain burning too bright, like Van Gogh’s. There have been moments—brief but flashy–when I thought it might drive me mad. Re-living the hard stuff can bring you close to the brink.
And then there is the downer of coming up against real life: like when the insightful adolescent in your head comes up against the boring, stupid adolescent-you of the diaries you dig out; like when you make contacts with old friends who seem too strange to touch, or too disappointing, or even frightening. Interactions with a couple of old friends have changed the actual content of my memoir. One contact fired it up. The other, with a friend of whom I was once fond, was so bitter, I eliminated the person from the book.
And finally, there is the disappointment of finding out that when you are in the mood to re-contact people, or when you are in the wistful, nostalgic mood, your old friends are not. They went through all that, and purged, long ago, or aren’t yet ready to touch the fire. No one is back there where you are, when you are. This brings you to think: How alone we all are. And yet how vivid everyone is, and how clamorous and crowded the life while writing.
All in all, despite it all, memoir-writing: a most rewarding obsession.