by Jerry Waxler
Read Memoir Revolution to learn why now is the perfect time to write your memoir.
In her memoir Here I Stand, Jillian Bullock describes the long, often painful journey from child to adult. In a previous essay about the book, I show how her Misery is Simply a Step toward Hope, click here. In today’s post, the author answers questions about writing the memoir.
Jerry: How long did it take from the initial concept of the book to completing a draft?
Jillian: It took me roughly 20 years. Due to the nature of the book, which deals with a great deal of pain and horrific experiences, I would start writing and then I had to take breaks (sometimes a few years) before I could go back to it.
Jerry: Then how long to actually get it out to the public?
Jillian: When I was truly ready to finish writing the book it took me two years. One year to complete the writing process and another year to have it professionally edited.
Jerry: I know from your memoir that you are very interested in writing. What prompted you to seek the help of a co-writer?
Jillian: I actually wrote the book myself, but since the man who edited it did have to do a really detailed edit. I had to go back and do rewrites that the editor suggested. Some of those rewrites consisted of changing whole sections of a chapter. I thought it would be fair to give him a “with” credit.
Jerry: How did writing the memoir affect you emotionally?
Jillian: The writing was difficult because I had many obstacles I had to overcome in my life. But at the same time writing the book helped me purge many of the emotional demons I had and eventually I was able to heal.
Jerry: How did the end result make you feel, seeing it finished?
Jillian: It was very emotional for me, especially considering it took me so long to write the book. Seeing it finished and in print made all the hard work, time and effort definitely worth it.
Jerry: How did you handle any fears or doubts you might have had about revealing all this intimate knowledge about yourself? For example what concerns did you have about the emotional vulnerability of exposing the events of your past, or about offending other people by exposing their secrets?
Jillian: I didn’t worry about revealing my life. I’ve come to terms with all that happened, which is another reason why it took me so long to write it. I had to be at peace in order to get through the process and be able to deliver a well written book. As far as offending other people, I didn’t have a problem with that either. Those people who I used their real names signed releases allowing me to include them in the book. The people who didn’t sign releases were either dead or I changed their names and other elements in order to disguise who they were, in a sense. I did put a disclaimer at the beginning of my book which states, “some, names, places, and events have been changed to protect the innocent and the not so innocent.” I tried to keep the book as honest as possible, so I put in all that I could if someone signed a release form.
Jerry: You end the book with the emergence from your troubled childhood into the glimmerings of a satisfying adulthood. How did you decide to end it here?
Jillian: I am writing the sequel to Here I Stand, called A Warrior’s Heart. The second book will start from the time I enter college and begin my internship up to present day. I thought it would be great to end the book at a point that gave me so much joy-my dream of working for the Wall Street Journal. It was a major accomplishment for a former drug-addicted, homeless prostitute. It was something no one thought I would ever be able to do, except for me. I never gave up hope that I would go to college and work for the Wall Street Journal, even when things had hit rock bottom for me.
Jerry: You have experienced profound betrayals in your life. The memoir makes me feel that you have come to terms with these betrayals, and found peace with them, but presumably that personal journey of forgiveness took place after the ending of the book.
Jillian: By the end of Here I Stand I had not come to terms with the betrayal and pain from all that happened. It took me several more years to do this, which I will include in A Warrior’s Heart. For a long time I struggled with depression and self-defeating habits even after I gained success and accomplished many things. I had to seek therapy to help me rid myself of the “criminal and prostitute mentality” I had. It was difficult because I didn’t understand why I was so angry all the time, why I continued to get involved in toxic relationships, and why I often slipped and resorted back to negative, destructive and bad habits. These things will all be included in the sequel where I do finally purge myself of those “ghosts,” which followed me around for a very long time. At the end of A Warrior’s Heart I will share how I finally found inner peace and love for myself and what it took to finally give me true happiness in my life.
Jerry: Since you can’t change your past, you are, like every other human being, stuck with events as they happened. It looks like you have done an enormous amount of personal work to come to terms with the events. So how do you use this work you’ve done to help others (presumably mainly young girls?) come to terms with their own situations?
Jillian: First of all, I let people know that their past does not dictate what their future will be. The past is just that, the past. And although I don’t ever forget my past, I don’t let it control my life or my actions anymore. I don’t berate myself for all that I did, the ugly, awful things I did to others and what others did to me. I now take 100% responsibility for my life, my actions and my behaviors. I stopped playing the blame game and pointing the finger at others (parents, kids, ex-husbands, employers, friends, family, society or God) for whatever decisions I make. I use my experiences to empower others to be Victors, not Victims by teaching them that despite the odds and obstacles in their past they can still go on to achieve happiness, success and greatness. It all starts with baby steps — 1) Take 100% responsibility for your life; 2) Stop the blame game.
Jerry: How do you use this published memoir in your speaking or activism work? What sort of talking points or opportunities has it given you to extend your message?
Jillian: I use my memoir, my story, as a way to help people understand that I know what they’re going through. I can relate to most people because I have walked in their shoes. People like to hear from someone who is real, who is down to earth, and who understands their plight and their pain.
Most of my empowerment programs deal with teaching others to transform their lives from Victims to Victors. Most people walk around with what I call “the pity look.” They look out at others and the world like they are owed something in life, especially if their life was difficult. I work to help people change their mindset, their methods, and their processing techniques, so they can understand why that make the choices they do. They have to understand that in order to begin to make the positive transformation needed to be emotionally healed.
I have gotten letters and emails from people all over the country, from corporate executives to those in correctional facilities seeking my advice on many personal issues. So, although I give people advice from my own personal experiences, I wanted to get more experience and education to help them. This has prompted me to return to college to begin working on a Ph.D. in Psychology.
To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on this blog, click here.
To order my step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.