Why Buddhists Shouldn’t Write Memoirs
Well, people, I did it.
The book that was rattling around inside me is on paper and in the hands of some of my nearest and dearest family and friends so they can give me some final editing advice before I release it to the
wild public. Hopefully, they’ll still be talking to me after they’ve read it.
For the past three months I was a writer, writing the draft manuscript. Then I was a reader and editor. reading and editing the book to make it better. At least that was my intention. I may have made it worse. I’ve been told I have a tendency to over-think things like words, sentences and relationships…or so I’m told by people with whom I no longer have relationships.
Anywho. To write a 270-page book and self-edit it takes about the same amount of time it takes for many college freshmen to realize all that partying isn’t technically a major. During that time I did little else but focus on my memoir. Since my memoir is about me and my wonk-a-doodle life, I’ve been entirely self-centered for the past three months. I wrote a book that has more “I’s” in it than in the Oxford Dictionary (I’m only guessing here, but I bet it’s darned close). People, for a Buddhist this is not a good thing.
If I were a “TV Personality,” an actual actress with talent, or Queen Elizabeth, then perhaps I could forgive
a little a lot of ego indulgence. But I don’t have papparottzen (that’s the plural of paparazzi, right?) snapping photo-shopped pictures of my robust… ample…totally womanly upper frontal area in a bikini with headlines conjecturing, “Are They Real or Did She Do It To Please Her Man?”
This leads me to why Buddhists shouldn’t write memoirs–at least not their own.
- Buddhism is all about living in the present moment, which kind of negates the whole purpose of the memoir, which about reliving your past, recounting it in vivid detail and reflecting on it in profound and preposterous ways. I rehashed a lifetime of crap-basket events in a condensed time frame–kind of like the low points of your life flashing before your eyes before you die, but you don’t die. Shizzle. The result might be worth it (a book people will want to read), but the process was like taking a big-ass blender and dumping in a whole week’s worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and dessert; then blenderizing the whole mess and drinking in one huge chug-a-lug. You miss savoring each meal and you want to erase the chugging from your mind. Buddhists don’t chug to my knowledge.
- While Buddhism encourages you to look within to assess how you feel about what’s happening in the present moment, too much “looking within” about my wonky past wasn’t what the Buddha had in mind. At least I don’t think so, not having ever spoken with the Buddha directly. You can tell the difference between peaceful and enlightened self-aware people versus I’ll-give-you-a-piece-of-my-mind-and-you-should-thank-me self-absorbed people. One of them listens a lot; the other talks a lot about her favorite subject. I bet you can guess
whatwho that is.
- Part of following a Buddhist lifestyle is trying your best to abide by Buddha’s remedy to end suffering, which is known as the Eight-Fold Path. It’s not so much a step-by-step recipe for attaining happiness as much as it is an invitation to think, speak and act in ways promote peace and a great deal of inner turmoil because “walking the talk” is so darned hard to do. Memoirs contain memories that often rile you up (and by “you” I mean “I”), so you end up writing things in your book that may not exactly be considered “wise speech” (one of the items on the Eight-Fold Path). The act of writing the unwise speech is not “wise action,” another breach of Buddha’s path. Then, if you’re like me–and you probably are because you’re reading my blog (or maybe you just like me, which makes me feel better–thanks!)–you feel guilty about all these transgressions in your quest to be a good Buddhist, so, oops! You’ve blown “wise view” and “wise mindfulness.” Then, you’re so freaking obsessed with finishing your book that you don’t meditate regularly. ”Wise Effort, Wise Intention, and Wise Concentration” are out the window. All you have left is “Wise Livelihood.” If, by writing this book, you hurt someone’s feeling–say a certain ex-husband who keeps popping up in the book–then you’re 0 for 8. You might just as well become a Mormon or Scientologist.
The great thing about Buddhism is that it is such a forgiving practice. I can forgive my self for my self-indulgence while writing my memoir and start anew in the next moment. Only, guess what? I’ve got a lot more work to do to get my memoir published and into the hands of people who need to read it–people like me and like you and like 50 of your closest family and friends. That means I have to create my own pyramid scheme and buy Tony Robbins motivational material to get the nerve up to self-promote and, apparently, walk on burning coals.
Just be patient, Buddha. I’ll fit you into my new busy schedule. I’ll have my people talk to your people and we’ll totally do lunch. Before the Tony Robbins Walk of Fire, preferably…