I love the teaching I’ve been doing, particularly on the memoir. I’ve gathered my top tips on writing your story and recommend the practice for everyone, even if you aren’t certain you will share it with anyone. Have you ever been tempted to write down parts of your life? If so, these might help you get started –
- Trust that there is a good reason why you remember something. Even if you don’t know what the reason is when you begin, remembering something is reason enough to write about it.
- Know the difference between journal writing and memoir writing. Writing in a journal is exclusively for your own eyes and serves to process and record the events and feelings in your life. Memoir and personal essays should be aware there is an audience and try to communicate a message or analysis of the events that are presented.
- Don’t worry about who will read your writing while you are writing it. It’s natural to think about the reactions of those who appear in your work, but for the sake of authenticity and honesty, push those thoughts aside. Often, these worries are a crutch for avoiding the hard work of writing it. Who knows if you will share your work with anyone, much less that person. The first order of business is to get it down. For those who say that they could never write about their family while certain people are still alive, I say write it anyway.
- Don’t worry about publishing it when you are writing your first draft. Publishing is likely miles away in the process of getting to a cohesive draft. First, write it.
- Make a list of significant moments in your life and try to make them as small and detailed as possible. (Not my diagnosis of cancer but, I was peeling a hard boiled egg when the doctor’s office called and asked me to come in.)
- Start writing from your list. Expand these significant moments, create scenes and insert sensory details. A common worry is to fret about what will thread the events together. I say that they don’t need a thread; don’t worry about connecting the events you write about – especially for the first draft.
- Consider giving yourself time to process intense events before you cover them in your memoir. Writing about your divorce while you are in the middle of it is perfect for journaling, but most of us need to some distance from an impactful event before we can write about it with a clear eye.
- Be careful about who you choose as your first readers. Choose people who you know care for you unconditionally and want the best for you. These people may not be the best writers you know, but seek to have your initial readers be supportive of you.
- Keep going. No one will force you to finish except you. It’s supposed to be hard, that’s why most people don’t do it. But you can, you’ve done hard things before.
- Remember, you are much more than any book you write. It takes courage to put one’s story on paper. No matter what you end up with, it is only a fraction of the person that you are.
I hope you start writing! Or keep writing! Or read writing! 🙂