AUTOBIOGRAPHY: THE MEMORY BOX

 

The Memory Box is my memoirs, currently being serialised on Facebook in the Group of the same name, where readers are free to share their thoughts, memories and photos.

 

This resource will allow those not using Facebook to read the text and will be updated periodically. 

  • Joolz Denby

Digression: Writing Your Life Story

Updated: Nov 25, 2018

OK. Now, since I started writing these stories I've had multiple versions of a few very similar questions, which I'll attempt to condense here. If your specific question isn't answered, I'm sorry, you're welcome to ask via message if it really bugs you.

1) Is it hard to write your life story and have people read it, aren't you worried what they'll think of you?

I think I was concerned in the past. I lived in a very androcentric world where women's lived experiences of abuse or rape were considered icky at best and downright repulsive at worst. The only way I was tolerated was if I stayed silent and basically behaved like a man, even down to dress and speech. Which is probably why I swear so much, but that's my excuse. I believed if I followed the party line, which was more or less the same one my family had of never speaking out about what was done to me, I'd be accepted and yes, approved of. I think we all, at some level, want to be approved of and people like me who were brought up by disapproving families struggle with that our whole lives. As I got older I realised the only reason people want you to keep quiet is to protect themselves, not, as they often say, to 'save you embarrassment and shame'. My attitude now is very simple. If people were decent with me, they have nothing whatever to be concerned about. I believe strongly in giving praise where praise is due. If they weren't decent with me, no one held a gun to their head and said call that woman a fucking bitch, hit her, exclude and bully her, rape her, betray her and try to fuck with her head or die. People who did negative things did so because they wanted to. It's important to remember that. They did those things of their own free will. It's not for me or anyone in my position to protect them or pretend they didn't do it. By saying you should just shut up about things,  they're insisting you protect them from their actions at further cost to yourself.  Fuck that for a game of soldiers. I'm not out to do character assassinations, but I'm not protecting people who don't deserve protection anymore either. The truth is the truth and facts are facts. I wish heartily that the negative things that happened to me had never occurred. But they did. And I don't give a rat's arse if anyone thinks 'less of me' for writing about it. Not any more.

2) Is this therapy?

No, I'm in actual therapy. I've been in therapy in order to deal with the PTSD I suffer from repeated trauma and depression for many years now. Sometimes I take a break from it, as when my much admired life-saving counsellor retired (terribly awkward social moment when he told me he was retiring - half of me was going politely, oh how lovely, do enjoy yourself and the other was stamping its foot going, don't you dare leave me - I have a long way to go therapeutically). But I continue with counselling because I need it. I would say rather counselling helps me have clarity about what I'm writing and why, and the writing stirs up lost memories. Also it puts those memories in a clearer light, one not shrouded by culture, expectations or secrecy. I am a professional writer, with the notions of discipline and work associated with that, so I tend to view my life more as material. I try to write as well as possible, because the writing matters most to me. It's not confessional to me, it's more like exploration. Or even poetry. I have had a hard and difficult life, but one that had many moments of intense and uplifting beauty and joy.

3). What does your family think about you writing about them in public?

I believe I have two cousins living, somewhere, and presumably their children. I have no contact with them and haven't for decades. To my knowledge,  that's all the blood family I have left. I am, in the words of the song, an orphan girl. Everyone starting to write their autobiography must, I think, pause and wonder what the family will say. How offended they'll be. If it will ruin Christmas dinner forever. I am no longer in that position. I waited until my parents died, solely to avoid causing my Dada any pain or shame by recounting my Ma's difficult and often cruel behaviour. He loved her so much he protected her his whole life and I wanted to keep in contact and be able to see him for as long as he lived. He would not have been pleased to see me break my Ma's cover. In the end, he lived less than 2 years after she died. He committed suicide rather than be without her any longer. I hope they're dancing together somewhere, at a massive party, my Ma in a beautiful gown looking glamourous and my Dada looking smart in his Highland Light Infantry mess uniform. But they have passed beyond me now. This is my time. Obviously if I write about other people's friends and relatives who did negative things, natural loyalty will mean they're upset by my speaking about it in public and sometimes they'll be angry. That's completely understandable. I had a different experience of that friend or relative than they did and they may not want to believe that friend or relative capable of cruelty or nastiness. However I can only report what actually happened to me. I fully accept that's not comfortable for some people and they'll lash out. No one likes to think dear Auntie Betty was not always the kindly old lady they believe her to be and that she had likes and dislikes, predjudices and behaviours they would find difficult to accept. But even though Auntie Betty is your Auntie, she is still a human being with all the complexities of any other human being. I am telling my story. You must tell yours.

4). Some say you're letting the side down and being awful to some famous and much loved individuals.

I'm sure that will be uppermost in a small minority's minds. Hero worship is an insidious and addictive behaviour in human beings, which often brings about some very dark and dangerous stuff. I refer again to my comments about if people were decent with me they need not worry. I am by nature ridiculously loyal to anyone who has shown me kindness or even courtesy. If they chose - and I emphasise the word chose - to be unkind or abusive, that's their call. I am not in the business of maintaining illusions regarding famous men anymore and I somewhat regret ever having done so, but I did. I created the image which became so beloved, to further other people's careers and ensure those careers had longevity. I am not myself aware of any particularly dark or illegal activity by anyone in that circle. I think we would be looking at common or garden sexism, the dislike some men have for women being in positions of power in their various industries, some abuses of power and bullying and of course, the fact that being able to play a musical instrument does not necessarily expand your mind, the reverse in fact, and most musicians are quite intensely conservative, especially in regards to the role of women. They don't take kindly to being asked to challenge that. Also, I was and still am a very Marmite kind of person. Loved or hated in equal measure according to taste. Im not generally 'easy going', socially political or good at small talk. Many find that annoying and even offensive. I understand that, as the majority want an easy life with no awkward blips like me to distract them.  Mostly, famous men of the type people are concerned with in this question simply want to be left alone to carry on their obsession, and it is obsession, without being asked to think about stuff they find uncomfortable. Much like us all really. If anyone is 'disappointed' by finding out their idols are human beings with all that entails, they need to examine their own attitudes first. I believe now it is that very humanity, with all its failings and amazing achievements, that gives the art it's lasting power and grace.

5). Why aren't you publishing these stories in a proper book.

Fair question. I have been published before by big publishing houses in many languages. I have won and been shortlisted for prestigious literary awards. In the public mind it therefore follows I could simply ask and be published immediately. However the reality is quite different from the public perception.  Publishers are not interested in literary worth. They are a business, interested in profit. While I was fashionable in some circles, I made them money. That was good. However myself as person they found difficult to cope with. They believed my appearence would put readers off, hence no author photo on book jackets  and that my perceived background made me a bad choice for literary festivals, which are also huge money making concerns. I don't doubt my requests to have input into cover designs, my being a non-drinker in a boozy industry, my pathological inability to network breezily also played a big part in my being passed over with a glad cry. Such is life. However. Now we have, for good or ill, social media. A platform not just for gossip and idle chat but for art and literature. Rather than wait hopefully and then have my manuscript returned unread by publishing houses for years until one eventually took it up, I thought I'd take the work to the very people who would like to read it. For free. Why not? I am very impatient as a person anyway and I found the idea amusing. One day, maybe, if a publishing house sees this work as being capable of turning them a profit it may be published, in which case I'll expand the stories into a more literary narrative. At present I'm enjoying writing this on my phone - yes, I am, a Galaxy S8, on an app called Natural Notes  - as the fancy takes me and sharing it all with you good people.

I hope that answers some of your questions. If anymore occur, I'll answer them as I go along.


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© JOOLZ DENBY - ARTIST - TATTOOIST - WRITER - POET - BRADFORD, WEST YORKSHIRE, UK - JOOLZDENBY00@GMAIL.COM