I gather together the dreams, fantasies, experiences that preoccupied me as a girl, that stay with me and appear and reappear in different shapes and forms in all my work. Without telling everything that happened, they document all that remains most vivid. ~Bell Hooks
YOU’VE DREAMED of writing a memoir someday but keep putting it off because you have no ambitions to publish, or your life story feels too intimate, or you think no one would be interested in reading it. All of these reasons are worth consideration — writing a memoir, after all, is not for the faint of heart — but there are rewards inherent in the process of writing your memoir that make it worthwhile. And I’m not talking about fame and riches — neither of which most memoir authors ever see anyway.
Consider writing your memoir as a work of legacy for your family, preserving your story within the family narrative. Otherwise, what will happen to your experiences, thoughts, perceptions, and memories?
You may also want to share your memoir with a limited circle of friends. That sharing process can also be therapeutic in that it can help validate your experiences and emotions and bring you closer to your friends.
Or write it for yourself. When you write a memoir for your own eyes only, you don’t have to be concerned about hurting or offending anyone else. Whereas, if you write intending to publish your memoir, you might be tempted to censor yourself, leaving out scenes that would otherwise be important to your story.
And even if you write your story just to write it, the psychological and therapeutic benefits are many, including:
- Helping you comes to terms with traumatic events and troubled relationships in your past
- Gaining a better understanding of how you coped with events in your life and how you grew as a result
- Reducing stress, improving cognitive function, and enhancing your personal growth
- Identifying common threads or life themes that help you frame your life in a cohesive narrative
- Understanding the ways in which you overcame adversity
- Developing empathy for the other people in your life
- Healing emotional wounds and paving the way for forgiveness
- Putting events in your life into a larger perspective
- Helping you evaluate how you want to live and who you want to be for the rest of your life
Of course, there are also risks to writing your story. Memoir writing requires you to tap into painful memories and be completely honest with yourself about your part in your life events. It requires you to disclose your deepest emotions and thoughts.
Though writing memoir can help to promote emotional healing, if the writer is still too close to traumatic events, writing about them may actually increase the feelings of anger and hurt. In this case, it might be better to wait until you have some emotional distance before writing about them. Another technique that often works well in these situations is to write in the third person.
I believe that you (that everyone) has a relevant and important story to tell, a story with the potential to engage and enrich the world.
Begin yours by writing down those memories and anecdotes, one at a time and collecting them in a binder.Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained. ~Thomas M. Cirignano Click To Tweet
If you would like a more structured approach, consider joining my eight-week online course, “From Memories to Memoirs.” In this moderated self-study course, you will learn how to record your memories as engaging stories and create a legacy of memoir.
Whether you enroll in a course or not, I invite, encourage, and challenge you to begin writing your life stories today.