This week Write On! Online interviews freelance writer Carly Milne. Milne, who contributes to various mainstream publications on topics that range from health and pop culture to fashion and travel, released her memoir, Sexography, last year. Sexography recounts both the tragic and comedic path Milne took in learning about her sexuality, after surviving rape, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Milne shares her experience relaying such a personal part of her past in an extremely public way.
How did you get started writing Sexography?
Getting started was actually a long process. Though a lot of what I wrote in the book came from previous articles and journal entries, I hadn’t gone as in-depth with them as I eventually wound up doing. So, while I tell people that the first ten chapters took me six months to write and the last ten took me ten days, if we’re counting piecing together what it was I wanted to include in the book to get it to proposal form leading all the way up to finally being finished, it was a four to five-year process. But once I had my chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what it was I wanted to say, I just started at the beginning and worked my way to the end … which should have probably been easy, but it was incredibly hard having to re-live a lot of the trauma from my childhood and teen years – hence why it took me six months to finish the first half.<
Why did you write this book?
Initially I started with selfish intentions. When I was going through a lot of my recovery, after really embracing what I’d been through, I felt very alone and had a hard time finding people that I could talk to about what I was experiencing without having to pay them on an hourly basis. So when I initially conceived the book, it was from the standpoint of, “Maybe if people read what I’ve been through, they’ll come forward and tell me what they’ve been through, and then I won’t feel so alone.” But as I continued writing and continued processing, I became more empowered about my experiences and journey, and how it made me who I was. Around midway through the writing process I stopped making it all about me and wondered if maybe I could help readers feel better about what they were going through in their own sexual trauma recovery. I think there’s still a lot of shame surrounding survivors of abuse, assault, and rape, so I really wanted to help in creating a landscape that encourages them not only to shed that shame, but to stand up and tell their stories, which can only encourage others to do the same.
What was your favorite part of the process?
Honestly… it’s hard to choose, because the experience was cathartic on so many levels. And it was also a great challenge to write something that didn’t shy away from the tough stuff, but also embraced the moments of hilarity that I experienced, too. I’d have to say that in writing the last ten chapters, there was something about immersing myself in that groove of writing a chapter per night that was so intense, yet so rewarding. I remember I’d been rereading the first ten chapters and just thought, enough is enough, I’m just going to do this… and I did. Every night I would turn off my phone, play some music, and buckle down from about 7pm until 3am… and then I’d wake up the next morning around 7am, start my regular work day, and shut everything out again that night to repeat what I’d done the night before. On one hand it was incredibly isolating and I was horribly anti-social, but on the other it was so freeing. I try to aim for that feeling no matter what I write now.
What was the greatest challenge about writing something so personal?
Not shying away from really telling the story. There were a million times where I either wanted to paint myself out to be a better person or paint someone else out to be a better person, but I knew that doing that would cheapen the journey.
How did you overcome it?
I struggled with it for sure – there are things in that book that my family don’t know, or some of my friends from certain periods in my life don’t know. But ultimately it’s all a part of me, and I didn’t want to try and present this front like I was super human. I made mistakes, I did hurtful things to other people, I acted in ways I shouldn’t have. But in a way, writing about them really helped me understand why they happened the way they did, which helped me forgive both myself and others, and move on.
How did you feel after completing it?
I’d had these dramatic visions that I would likely have some kind of full-on, snot-drenched crying session that would leave me a blubbering mess on the floor in front of my desk, followed by at least a week on my couch watching nothing but trash TV. But instead, I just felt this incredible sense of calm. I think I read the last chapter twice once I’d finished it, just to make sure I was really done. And then I took a deep breath, and this voice inside my head said, “Okay — what next?”