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Writing Memoir: Searching for the Truth

Writing Memoir: Searching for the Truth

FINDING TRUTH IS THE ELEMENTAL TASK OF MEMOIR, and what memoirists struggle with most as we write our stories. I have been reflecting on this aspect of memoir, since reading Ann Churcher’s post, “Memoir Writing: Can’t Find My Way Back Home,” in which she writes: Searching for the truth has been the biggest burden of all. What is “truth”? I don’t mean facts – they are easily ascertained – I mean essential truth. Churcher discusses the difficulty of retrieving memories and verifying the facts of those memories, of mysteries surrounding those memories she will never uncover because the events happened long ago[...]
How to Nurture (and Keep) the Writing Habit

How to Nurture (and Keep) the Writing Habit

WHEN ASKED about their greatest writing challenges, many writers tell me they struggle with making a regular habit of writing. Life gets in the way, they say. And it’s true. That’s because they are attempting to create a new habit, and, as pretty much everyone knows, changing or creating habits can be incredibly difficult. To “install” a new habit requires a commitment to making a change in your life and understanding what it will take to accomplish. It may also mean taking time away from other activities. Our daily lives are largely ruled by habit — we rise, shower, eat, dress, and brush our[...]
Read Like a Writer, Part 4: This Boy's Life - First Impressions

Read Like a Writer, Part 4: This Boy's Life - First Impressions

FIRST IMPRESSIONS - *This Boy’s Life, by Tobias Wolff This Boy’s Life, published in 2007, is already a classic among coming-of-age memoirs. It begins with Toby, age fourteen, and his mother as they run West to hide from an abusive relationship and make their fortune prospecting for uranium. “She was going to make up for lost time, and I was going to help her.” (p. 6) When the uranium fields turn out to be more rumor than fact, and his mother's abusive boyfriend shows up, they go on the run again, this time to Seattle. There, Toby falls in with the wrong group of boys.[...]
6 Journaling Prompts to Conquer Your Inner Critic

6 Journaling Prompts to Conquer Your Inner Critic

ARE YOU SELF-CRITICAL? Get down on yourself for making mistakes or not meeting your own standards? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Many of us run a constant inner dialogue that sounds something like this: I can’t do anything right! Who would want to read anything I write? What an idiot! I’ll never be able to do that. I should know better than to open my big mouth. Rather than help us learn or perform better, these inner criticisms hold us back. These negative statements, which are almost always about who we are rather than specific to behavior, drain our confidence and[...]
Writing Memoir: Where's the Conflict?

Writing Memoir: Where's the Conflict?

WRITING MEMOIR IS A LOT LIKE WRITING FICTION — only with all the made-up parts left out. You have scene (place and time), which is inhabited by characters, dialogue, and action. You have a point of view, usually first person, through which the narration occurs. In addition, memoir also includes reflection, in which narrators expand upon the impact and meaning of life events. Today, I want to talk about scene — in particular, the importance of incorporating conflict into scene. It can be tempting to think that conflict comes about as a result of events — a battle, a hurricane, an invasion of[...]