The Innocent

Every memoirist will be drawn to write about the wounds they have received. No matter how scarred I may feel, there can be no villains in my story. And so first I must forgive my enemies, the ones who struck the blow or said the unkind word. Then I have to forgive my friends, the ones who tried and failed to heal the wound they could not perceive. Finally, and most difficult of all, I must forgive myself for believing the wound was ever real. The last is always the hardest. I begin most stories full of bluster and defense, the hero who rides his horse through the mud and blood of battle pointing out the criminals and the fools. This feels boring and flat, and so I tell it again, and this time I prostrate myself on the page, confessing every sin, every venal weakness, every lust and lie. This usually goes on for quite a while. It feels honest and raw and cathartic. At last the secret is out, and I am free.

And yet I’m not. When I write these drafts I feel as if I am waiting for final word of my innocence, and no matter how honest and revealing I may be, the story seems incomplete. I usually puzzle over this for a bit and consider abandoning the project. Maybe it’s just a not a story worth telling. Maybe it was just therapy and now that I’ve gotten it out I can move on to something better.

By and by I am drawn back to the story with nothing left to confess. Now I am ready finish it, because now I am no longer the one giving the confession, now I am the one hearing it. It is an easy position to fill once you’ve got it because there is no sin to forgive. There is only the one who forgot who he was, and now the one writing about it.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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