Looking Forward In Life Rather Than Back at Memoir

My husband and I in Washington DC one spring day.

My husband and I in Washington DC one spring day.

Hi Friends,

My memoir classmate, Ann Jewett, has unwittingly spoken something Eleanor Roosevelt said as well. Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t want to linger in the past. She was impatient with it. Eleanor Roosevelt said she just wanted to look forward and that there was so much to do.

Ann Jewett has cancer. And I was shocked to hear this. My prayers go out to her.  Another thing about her shocked me.

She deleted her memoir because she doesn’t want to look back any more. This announcement greatly affected me because I know how hard she worked on it. Also because I am still hard at work with mine. My memoir, “Spiraling, My Battle With Bipolar Disorder, still has three more chapters to go. I still need to look back to finish it.

Here is Ann Jewett’s blog post on where she says Cancer doesn’t define her.  And again it gave me pause. Because even though her disease doesn’t define her, mine does define me. Bipolar Disorder does define me in many ways. I have to struggle daily in keeping a schedule and be religious in taking my medicine. But Ann made me think in other ways as well.

She is influencing me to work harder on my memoir. Yes, I have to look back to finish it but meanwhile I can begin to help people. I am really happiest when I am helping people. I guess that is partly why I chose nursing as my profession. I would have stayed in it longer if not for my back pain and consequent back surgeries. See how I conquered it here.


So my goals have changed somewhat. I am going to work harder than ever on finishing my memoir. Yes, and look back while I’m doing this. And also I can start looking forward at the same time.


To begin with, I reupped my commitment to my ESOL, English as a Second Language, volunteering I was doing before summer came. And in the department of mental illness I am going to sign up to walk for it in our neighborhood in October. I saw the announcement in our Parks and Rec Center where I take Pilates. Then I am going to pay better attention to the NAMI, National Association for the Mentally  newsletters I get in my inbox.  In them I hope to see some other ways I can help locally. And I will seek out my local members and ask if there is anything I can do.


I am not going to do this all at once because I still want to focus on my writing. I still need time to finish that darn memoir. But maybe   I don’t need to spend all my time on it. I can be more structured. I can make a schedule.  So now you know my hopes and goals. Look forward.  Thanks, Ann.


Have any of you had that time where you realized looking back was not working for you? And maybe you just had to start looking forward? Maybe you were depressed and needed a new attitude? Let me know in the comments, okay?


And here is a link for my writer friends.

Here is a link for us memoir or middle grade authors: What to do to write a Gut Wrenching Scene from K. M. Weiland


And for a look at a logo my friend Margot Finke made me? Here it is about my two picture books.  We are still waiting for the print version of Edmund Pickle Chin. It is in e -version on the publisher’s web site though. Susan and I got a proof of Edmund Pickle Chin last Wednesday and corrected the errors for our publisher. Now to get the final one in the mail. We are more than eager to see it in print… It has gone on much too long.



Thanks for reading friends!


See you Friday!

My Picture Books in logo by Margot Finke

My Picture Books in logo by Margot Finke

About ClaraBowmanJahn

Journal writer. Author of "Annie's Special Day" And coauthor of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story." Proud mother and grandmother of wonderful kids. Wife of brilliant husband. Servant of two cats. Member of Pennwriters and SCBWI.
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19 Responses to Looking Forward In Life Rather Than Back at Memoir

  1. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    I’ll have to read Ann’s blog. I’ve always considered looking back as a way to improve the forward movement. I have put my memoir revisions (more revisions than writing for that one) on hold for a bit as I’m polishing my picture book work. Good luck with your memoir and all your work. You are one busy woman! Happy writing (scheduling)!


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks, Stacy!

      I scheluded today and then remembered I had two Doctor appointments this afternoon. So it has to be flexible. I have whole days I don’t do anything for my picture book progress. so sad, too because I really enjoy it. It is more fun than reliving pain that is for sure. 🙂


  2. Interesting post. I feel pretty ambivalent about the looking back/looking forward thing. Much for me to think about here.


    • clarbojahn says:

      Hi Rosi!

      I know what you mean. Looking back can be frightful. In both mental and emotional ways. For some it is against their religion since they are living in the NOW. It is an individual thing.

      For me? I have to look backwards just until this memoir is done. Then I can put all my focus on the present. 🙂


  3. Margot Finke says:

    Wonderful post, Clara. You let us see a little more of what’s behind the curtain. . . I pinned your NAMI link to Special Needs, Mental Health etc – on Pinterest.


  4. Margot Finke says:

    I have to add some thoughts about looking back or looking forward. Looking back can be the proverbial two edged sword – if you allow it. Remembering bad decisions that caused you pain can help you learn from them, and not repeat them again. When a loved one dies, memories of happier times can ease the pain of their passing. Memories are there to be used, but in a “right” and healthy way.

    Lingering too much on the past bad or sad events can become a habit that leads to depression – NOT a good use of memory. The ideal is to combine memory and looking ahead. Looking ahead lets you set goals to work for (as Clara is doing), while making sure you don’t make the same mistakes twice. This involves using your memories, both good and bad, to create a future that is better than the past.

    Books for Kids – Manuscript Critiques


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks, Margot,

      You are so right. There needs to be a balance in looking back and looking for the future. Right now I have to look at the past and relive it really while writing my memoir but that is not going to continue indefinitely. Soon, after I craft the scenes I need, I will be living in the present again. 🙂


  5. Writing also can be cathartic and a way to let the past go so that you can move forward. I watched the Roosevelt series on PBS and I could see that in Eleanor’s personality. I used to keep diaries, and at one point did a sacred burning of the early ones so that I could release them and move forward with my life.

    I do think it is a very personal decision. I had many people nudging me to write my memoir about a very challenging time in my life 10 years ago and how I moved forward. But, I have decided that it is the past, and for me the past doesn’t exist — only the present. I don’t even focus on the future, just now. It is such a personal decision. But, there are no right or wrongs. What you write may help a lot of people. I wish you the best. And, I like to review memoirs.


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks so very much for your comment, Patricia. I am so glad what you are focusing is working for you and that you say it is an individual decision. I know what you are talking about. My mindfulness meditation taught me to do that as well. Or zen, or buddist type philosophy. (spelling?)

      Anyway, right now I need to do what I am doing with looking backward to finish this memoir. It is reliving. And it is hard. I honor your wish to live in the present. After I finish I hope I can live in the NOW as well.

      I know it was not lightly that you burned your diaries, Pat. That was not easy. And not writing a memoir about your life was also thought about very seriously. We all have our own path to follow. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. lhsittig@verizon.net says:

    Wow, Clare. Stay brave, learn from the past, but keep your eyes


  7. I’m not an experienced memoir-writer like you, Clar. But I did write a memoir a few years ago. Only a few people have read it. Mostly it sits on my hard drive and gathers computer dust. I did have to look back to write it and it was hard – very hard. In fact, the end was so hard that I couldn’t finish it. It sat for over a year missing the last chapter because I just couldn’t write it – I couldn’t bring myself to face “the end”. But I finally did. And for me the looking back, the facing it, the writing, was like therapy and in the end it allowed me to look forward. So look back while you have to so you can get the job done, and hopefully you too will find that it releases you and allows you to go forward better than before. You can do it! 🙂


    • clarbojahn says:

      Wow! Susanna!

      Thanks for sharing that story. It is powerful. Yes, it is so hard wriitng this memoir. The looking back the reliving. It is all so much harder than people think. Maybe I’ll write about that sometime.

      Is your memoir sitting in a drawer because it isn’t finished or because you don’t want to share it?

      Thanks for saying the writing is therapy, some of it is. I have learned stuff about myself. But mostly just writing in my journal is therapy for me. That is where I get the most out of it Of writing.

      I Sure can identify with you about finishing it though. So far I haven’t done that either. I have been spending time revising. Not concluding. Not in resolution. I hope that changes soon and I can say “I Finished! ” 🙂


  8. jannatwrites says:

    I think looking back can be healthy as long as it isn’t detracting from the present. For instance, me dwelling on wrongs that were done to me by peers in school would do nothing but make me feel bad about myself so I don’t do it. Reflecting on how a friendship went awry can be helpful to identify shortcomings and improve myself so I do try to do that. Good luck on your memoir. .. you’re so close!


    • clarbojahn says:

      🙂 Yes, I’m so close! It is hard drawing my memoir to a finish line. It has been so hard to write and relive.

      Susanna brought how hard to finish to light in comments below and I can really identify with it. Concluding my memoir is almost as hard as the total word count is, all fourteen chapters. Strange, right?

      I Have been spending time in revision. Learning Scrivener. Tightening scenes. Or rather making scenes from journal entries. So hard.

      Thanks for your comment, Janna. It does matter in what way one looks back. One can be therapeutic and the other more pain than necessary. 🙂


  9. Joanna says:

    I am often encouraged to write memoir because my life has not been very traditional! I have avoided it in great part because I do not want to go back over the hard times but want to focus on the present. I am, however, doing a memoir class with my MFA this semester and I am finding it very cathartic. I think it is a personal decision, Clar, and I respect your choice and your courage!


    • clarbojahn says:

      Thanks, Joanna, for your encouragment.

      Yes, it is a choice each memoir writer makes. Some of us write it and don’t publish. Or change some things and make it fiction.

      I am glad you are finding it cathartic. 🙂


  10. Well said! And good luck! 😀


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