A Memoir Can be Hard to Write—But You Can Do It!
(I am hosting Denis Ledoux on my blog to share his e-books: How to Start to Write Your Memoir which is Book One in the seven-part Memoir Network Writing Series.)
Sometimes at the beginning of a workshop or of coaching relationship, people ask whether writing a memoir going to be hard.
The short—but possibly intimidating—answer is: yes! The longer and more encouraging answer is: Yes, but you can do it!
Writing any long piece requires discipline and hours of commitment to the task. A memoir is no exception. You may have to learn skills you do not now possess. You may have to face a past you would rather not face. While your lifewriting may have these hard moments and others, it is important not to dwell on these when they occur.
“There is no birth of consciousness without pain.”
As with parenting and all long-term projects, it is more constructive to focus on writing’s pleasures and satisfactions than on its difficulties.
Many writers have felt that the benefits they derive from writing has made the effort of creating a memoir worthwhile.
You will find lifewriting brings you many rewards that will encourage you to continue writing.
The many compensations of memoir writing:
Here are some of the benefits you can look forward to:
1. Writing a memoir can be like going to a reunion.
As you write your story, you will meet once again—if only on the page—many of the people who have been important to you in your life. Perhaps you will see your grandmother, smiling at you as she often did, about to tell you how pleased she is that you have stopped at her house on your way back from school, or your Uncle Joe’s voice will boom in the background as you glimpse your little sister zooming down a slide into a pool of water!
Enjoy the vicarious visit! Everyone is still with you—if only in your memory.
2. Lifewriting can renew the relationship you have with your former, younger selves.
That, too, is a sort of reunion as you focus on the relationship you have, and have had, with yourself and your life. Perhaps you will want to hold the child you were and comfort him or her by saying, “You will be all right. See who you have become.” Or, perhaps it is the adolescent you need to reassure. Or, all of these.
Other writers enjoy the realization that they once were courageous or how noble in the face of adversity a younger self was—or younger selves were.
3. Memoir writing is likely to be cathartic.
Over time, your memoir will also provide you with a catharsis, a healing of past resentments and pain. Too often, we hold on to the memory of a feeling long after the time when we actually still feel the way we once felt. That is, we confuse the way we remember we once felt with the way we now feel.
Memoir writing is not therapy but it offers you many of the same benefits.
Writing set healing in motion.
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And perhaps, too, the manuscript you are undertaking to write will reach out to others and speak to them about the life you have lived and the truth you have experienced. Your story can be more than an individual’s tale: it can be the story of an Everyman or an Everywoman wandering through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries on the way to the present.
You are a hero who has adapted, survived, and perhaps even flourished in the world as we know it, and it is time to celebrate that.
1. Write about your courage to face difficult memories. Do you have enough to face any difficulty you may encounter? (This exercise is not for everyone. Some people have few difficult moments to write about. While they may have experienced sorrow and loss, these are now in the past and are not weighted with pain. Do not feel you are remiss—or shallow, or unfeeling—if you do not have difficult memories to work through.)
2. Write about the emotional benefits you expect to derive from writing, from the process.
3. If you expect there to be difficult moments, write about these, too, and record how you might deal with them as they arise. This exercise is more in the nature of a rehearsal rather than a prescription. Frankly, you don’t know how you will react.)
4. What have your writing successes been? Congratulate yourself and let your successes encourage you if you should ever feel like giving up.
5. Beside the notebook in which you keep these exercises, do you keep a journal? Many people use their journals to explore meaning in their lives. Many writers have kept journals. Some, like Anaïs Nin, have made journal-writing their focus. Think of your journal as a laboratory.
BIO: Denis Ledoux is the author, most recently, of How to Start to Write Your Memoir which is Book One in the seven-part Memoir Network Writing Series. This post is adapted from that e-book. Also in publication is Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop You. A complete list of publications is available. To be placed on an alert list, send an email.
How to Start to Write Your Memoir: Click here to go to Amazon.
MemoirWriting Series: http://thememoirnetwork.com/memoir-writing-books-series
Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop You: Click here to go to Amazon
Contact Denis Ledoux via his e-mail: Denis@thememoirnetwork.com
Follow Denis on Twitter:@Denis Ledoux
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[…] Resist the urge to write from the beginning. Start anywhere! The most important step is to start writing. Concentrate on single stories instead of on your life as a whole. It’s discouraging to think of writing 200 pages, but everyone can write one three-page story. […]