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Mistake #2: Getting Lost in a Rabbit Hole of Memories

Memoir Incubator writer Elisheva Trenk talks about the writing mistakes she made during the four years she drafted her memoir.

By Elisheva Trenk

October 10, 2022

After four years of working on my memoir, I (with the help of the Memoir Incubator!) finally finished my first draft. In the hopes of helping out my fellow writers, I’m sharing the top five mistakes I made that slowed down the process of writing my memoir and made me feel pretty cruddy while doing it.

If you missed it last week, check out my “Mistake #1: Comparing Myself to Other Writers.”

Mistake #2: Getting Lost in a Rabbit Hole of Memories

Ok. So I make this mistake. All. The. Time. It feels like every time I’m close to meeting my word count goal for the day, I am suddenly seized by a need to know exactly what evening dress my mother would have worn to a wedding in 1991.

My memories alone will never be enough for this. After all, who am I to stand in the way of true authenticity in my memoir? Isn’t accuracy important? How would it feel if for eternity my mother exists in my book, wearing a dress she never actually owned? This wouldn’t just be a simple mistake; this misrepresentation would cast a shadow of doubt on my entire career as a writer.

At this point, the only thing my mind tells me is that I must sift through all of my vintage home videos to find the exact dress. And to do it right now.

So, I abandon my draft and dive head-on into those good old VHS tapes. After watching hours of film of my brothers’ graduations and bar mitzvahs, I inevitably find myself exhausted, emotionally drained, and puzzled over why melon ballers are no longer a thing.

By now, that golden hour window for writing has long passed. And as for my mother’s outfit? Well, who was I kidding? I knew all along I was going to put her in that black velvet dress with the puff sleeves.

What You Can Learn From My Mistake

Speaking from experience, if you want to draft your book efficiently, don’t lose yourself in the unimportant details just yet! There will be time to go back and re-watch your old family films. Just try not to do it while you’re in the middle of a successful writing stretch.

For more mistakes to avoid during your book drafting process, look out for next week’s Spotlight: Mistake #3: Telling Anyone and Everyone About My Memoir.

Elisheva Trenk has been published in The Jewish Press and NY Jewish Week. She is currently working on a memoir about her strong and sparkling (and very well-dressed) mother.