Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Writing Process for “As If It Didn’t Happen,” by Maggie Claire

I know you'll enjoy Maggie Claire's description of her writing process for "As If It Didn't Happen." What I love best about her process is the interaction between writing and music. --JGR

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Have you ever peered into the water and seen yourself looking back? Often, the person looking back at me looks familiar but is clearly not me. Why? Because I have multiple personalities (MPD).

When a little girl goes through trauma so severe that she cannot survive, her mind conceives that it must be happening to another child. After awhile, these other personalities become so real that they develop names and separate identities. This is known today as dissociative identity disorder or DID.

In order to write my memoir, I used a process wherein the personalities wrote their own stories. Some wrote on the computer and put their name as the title of the chapter. In other cases, an older personality wrote while a little child described what had happened. One little boy personality told his story in a phone interview, which became two chapters. Since I kept a diary and wrote emails to my editor, these were interspersed with chapters to explain a variety of issues that came up while writing.

Orchestrating many different voices, I felt like a composer who strings tones and sounds together to produce a symphony where instruments are highlighted in succession. How intriguing that the Mozart clarinet quintet, second movement, K 581, was my inspiration throughout the entire writing process. Music has always been the voice of my sad soul. It conveys unknown emotions and inner thoughts; when combined with original artwork this multi-layered memoir emerged.

Today when I think about my life and journey back to reality I imagine things from my dreams or when I am calm and in touch with my inner personalities. This is a true story I told my inner children one day when we began to talk about what happened. Talking and telling our story was scary because I was threatened to keep quiet or be hurt, so I had to weave the truth in fantasy.

“Once upon a time, I dropped a beaded necklace and the beads scattered all over. You, my children are the beads of my treasured necklaces. The beads bounced with a ping, ping, ping and came to rest all about. Vivid colors of crystals and glass lay 'round me like my life, past and present. I picked up and held each bead, wrote about it, and then strung them together into a new necklace, which reflected a dazzling light on us when we needed to hide in the dark forest of uncertainty. The necklaces also shaped how our memoir became a reality.”

Always I lived in the land of magic where fairies play on puffy clouds and all I have to do when needed is to wish myself up to romp with the fairies in the clouds and then nothing bad could happen.

Putting all of the facts, emotions, insights, diaries and emails together as a narrative was the formula for my memoir. In essence, this is the story of how I lived as if it didn’t happen.

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2 Responses »

  1. You can purchase the book at Amazon.com or lulu.com.
    Thanks

  2. Dear Maggie Claire, I can't wait to order your memoir! What a brilliant child you must have been, to create another world where you could function "as if it didn't happen." Last year I began watching The United States of Tara, and I often wondered if people really could live with alters inside. To read your essay while listening to the beautiful, beautiful symphony was a wonderful insight into what music must have added to your life experience. I just wanted to say: Thank you for your courage in sharing a true story of multiple personalities. Thank you. -Linnie F.

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