Jane Fonda began writing her book "My Life So Far" right before she turned 62. Fonda certainly has led an amazing life to put down on paper.
The daughter of Henry Fonda, she is a huge movie star in her own right, not to mention a workout guru. She is also the ex-wife of billionaire Ted Turner. Despite all this, Fonda calls the third and final section of her book, "The Beginning."
Below is an excerpt from the paperback edition of the book.
It all began as I very intentionally prepared for my sixtieth birthday. Whether we care to admit it or not, (and I'm a strong advocate for admitting) sixty marks the start of our third and final act—unless we live into our hundreds, God forbid! I felt this milestone warranted a review of acts one and two and this is when I discovered there were clear, broad, even universal themes that ran through my life, a coherent arc to my journey that, if I could be truthful in the telling, might provide a roadmap for other women as they face the challenges of relationship, self image and forgiveness. What I did not anticipate was how the story of my journey would also resonate with men.
I was sixty-two years old and five months into my separation from Ted Turner when I began the actual writing, and, for the five years it took me to complete My Life So Far, I was sucked into a vortex of emotion and self-exploration.
I love to hear about other peoples' creative processes. I read how Hemingway always wrote standing up; how Virginia Woolf felt the presence of an "angel in the house" looking over her shoulder as she wrote, warning her to censor herself, telling her it wasn't ladylike to say this or that (ie to tell the truth). Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott's quirky, accessible book about writing, gave me the courage to finally sit at my lap top and discover my own processes.
I'd usually get up before sunrise and plunk myself down at my lap top as early as possible just to get something written while my brain is clearest. I was three years into the writing when I had to face a hard fact: even a few glasses of wine or a martini (or two) the night before meant my mornings weren't 100%. I thought to myself, I don't have any mornings to waste. I need all the clarity I can muster to do a good third act. So I stopped drinking. It was as simple and complicated as that (and damn hard!).
I wrote in layers. First I'd write, "I did this and then I did that." Then, maybe an hour or a day later, after I'd thought more about it, I'd go a little deeper and write what I really did. Often, after a few days of marinating, I'd realize that I'd avoided the important part: what I felt about it. And so I'd go back and try to excavate the feelings. At such times I would feel myself becoming unusually vulnerable, the same vulnerability I'd felt right before starting a new film, where the edges of me became porous as I morphed into a new persona. Sometimes I'd come right to the edge of capturing in words what my intellect struggled to comprehend, only to find the center of it slither away from me, leaving me frustrated at my limitations as a writer. My only solace was to immerse myself in mundane physical labor, such as weeding, chopping trees or moving rocks. Having my hands in the dirt and my guard down allowed the hidden-away things to surface -- the uncomfortable, sometimes unattractive but truthful feelings. Writing, like acting, I was discovering, requires that I stay raw and available.