I’ve edited a lot of memoirs and coached a lot of memoir writers during my career.
I know my way around this genre.
But it wasn’t until I wrote a memoir and sold it to a major publishing house, Hachette Book Group, that I came to fully understand one of the most important truths about memoir writing.
And this lesson has to do with the word Story
In writing a memoir, you must know the difference between YOUR story and the stories OTHER PEOPLE tell about you.
This is so key. So, I’ll say more.
As we grow up, and, later, as we move through the world as adults, we absorb a lot of other people’s ideas about who we are. This is especially true for those of us who are creative and empathic. Psychologists say we creative, empathic people are high in Openness. We take in the world in big gulps. We are sensitive. We love to play with reality in our minds. Openness makes us wonderful and talented artists, writers, actors, etc.
And while being high in Openness is a gift, it comes with a downside too.
We get confused about what’s OUR reality versus OTHER PEOPLE’s reality. We can be naive, too. If somebody tells us who they think we are, we tend to give their opinions about us too much credence. Over time, we might even believe their versions of who we are MORE than our OWN. If we don’t do hard work on ourselves to get clear about what’s ours versus theirs, we can get pretty confused. We might even doubt who we are so much that we LOSE our sense of ourselves.
Why am I telling you about this in an email about writing memoirs?
A lot of my clients are high in Openness. And those who aren’t can still become confused about what’s their story versus a friend’s or spouse’s or society’s story about them.
And, well, if you have absorbed too many false stories about yourself, you won’t be able to tell YOUR story truthfully and powerfully.
I know this. I had to do a LOT of work on myself to get clear about what my stories were versus what my own family’s stories about me were. Therapy, yoga, meditation. It all helped me. It was hard, and it took a long time.
But—once I did get clear on what was mine versus THEIRS, it all clicked for me as a memoir writer. I finally saw the raw, true story of my life, and I was able to tell it clearly and powerfully in words.
Figuring out YOUR story versus OTHERS’ stories about you is SO important to a memoir writer that I now include this essential topic in my Writing to Find Your Fire Memoir Writing Class.
I call this module: Reclaim and Reframe Your Story. It’s the first thing we talk about.
If you are interested in joining me in my next Writing to Find Your Fire Memoir Class, I hope you’ll email me and let me know. I’m happy to tell you more in writing or in a free 30-minute Zoom call.
No matter if you desire to publish your memoir or whether you want to write a memoir to understand your life better, Writing to Find Your Fire will help you.
This class teaches the essentials of memoir writing, including structuring, making progress, and self-editing—plus you write, COMPLETE, and polish your own 40-page MINI-MEMOIR (aka Personal Essay.)
The eight-week class begins on January 13. Click here to sign up!