Writing your memoirs is an intensely personal project. Whether you’re writing about a traumatic past or the inspiring journey your life has been, you’ll have to confront memories that trigger powerful emotions. Those emotions may be overwhelming and could derail your efforts to keep your writing on track. You’ll need to learn how to face your fears without letting them overcome your desire to write your story.
Understand Why You’re Writing Your Memoirs
Take an honest look at why you’re writing your story. Is it all about revenge, or do you believe it will be cathartic? Do you want to learn something about yourself and hope your memoirs will put things in perspective? Knowing WHY you’re writing will prepare you to process WHAT you’re writing when the time comes. Understanding your motivation can also help you deal with fears that will arise as you move through your writing.
Be Prepared to Face Uncomfortable Emotions
Writing your memoirs will stir up lots of emotions you may not have faced in your past. Stirring up these old memories could trigger a deluge of unexpected feelings, from guilt to regret. Understanding this and being prepared for them will help. Having a friend who can listen without judging can help. If you are coping with devastating memories that could have a lasting emotional impact, consider a few sessions with a counselor or therapist who can advise coping skills to use whenever things get a bit intense.
Remember That You’ve Moved Forward
While it can sometimes feel like you’re living through an unpleasant or sad moment all over again when you have to capture it in words, you aren’t. Keep in mind that what happened then isn’t what’s going on now. Your life has moved forward, and writing your memoirs is part of that process. Let yourself – encourage yourself – to face looking at the past because right now, you’re moving toward the future. Let go of your memories’ ability to hurt you by staying firmly rooted in the present. Any time you feel the danger of wallowing approaching, stop writing and tell yourself, “That was then, this is now.” If you need to, talk to someone supportive who will remind you of who you are now and what is good about your current life.
Forget About What Others Might Think When Writing Your Memoirs
Writers worry about what readers will think, even more so when writing a memoir. But it’s counter-productive to worry about what others will think when writing your first draft. Over-analyzing and second-guessing can steal away your authentic voice. When writing your memoirs, it’s critical to focus on the immediacy of recording the moments without thinking too hard about how they’ll be received. Capture the raw emotions, convey the joy or sorrow or pain now. Edit and worry about what people might think later.
Don’t Apologize or Make Excuses
If you are concerned about how others will look in your memoir, you may develop an apologetic tone or skew the story to show someone in a more positive light than they deserve. You may make excuses for their behavior or your own, neither of which will result in an honest or accurate memoir. Record your story accurately, warts and all. Nuance comes after it’s finished and you read through what you’ve written, when details may come back that you didn’t think about when pushing through the emotions.
Be Gentle with Yourself While Writing Your Memoirs
Writing your memoirs can be physically, intellectually, and emotionally taxing. This is a time when you need to treat yourself with care and self-love. Take breaks, treat yourself to an iced coffee, get a massage, buy that fabulous sweater…take the time to indulge occasionally to lift your spirits when you’re feeling bogged down by memories. Take care of your body during the journey. Healthy meals, plenty of sleep, and exercise will all help you through writing your memoirs.
Dudley Court Press
Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a contemporary publishing company, we help thoughtful people write and publish books for all sorts of reasons. For more information about our Developmental Editing, Coaching, Consulting and Professional Self-Publishing options, please reach us at +1-520-329-2729 or Info@DudleyCourtPress.com.
We’ve recently launched our latest program, Memoir Writing for Non-Writers. This comprehensive ten-week course helps you turn your memories into a compelling memoir.
– Gail Woodard