December 9, 2023

Pushing the Fear of Being Sued to Where It Belongs—on the Backburner

Brooke Warner and I have taught hundreds of students in our memoir workshops and classes, and presented memoir topics at dozens of conferences. In every single course we teach, a writer will invariably raise her hand, looking a bit pale and scared, and say: “I can’t write my story because I’m afraid of being sued.” Other writers can’t get the image of angry ex-partners or friends or coworkers out of their minds. If you write what really happened, can these aggrieved people sue you?   Fear of … [Read more...]

How to Work Through Overwhelm While Writing Your Memoir

The challenge with overwhelm is the way that it hits us from so many sides. As a writer, you’re not just going to be overwhelmed by the project you’re working on, but also with your responsibilities, your life, the wider world. Overwhelm is a lot like seasonal allergies, in that you’re impacted or at its mercy, and it can come and go in waves. As a writer, you don’t have the luxury of compartmentalizing overwhelm, though it might be helpful to think of overwhelm as something to categorize and … [Read more...]

Writing Through Exposure in Memoir

Memoir, as a genre, requires intimacy and self-exposure. It demands confession and deep dives into the truths of our inner lives. When we write a memoir, we enter into a contract with the reader: we’ll reveal the truth of our experiences, our emotional truth. But how much? How detailed? And what are we allowed to hold back? These are questions all memoirists encounter, especially at the beginning of the writing journey.Another question every memoir writer will face has to do with exposure—how … [Read more...]

7 Tips To Keep Writing Through the Muddy Middle of Your Memoir

The idea that you can get stuck in the "Muddy Middle" of writing your memoir came up in teaching Write Your Memoir in Six Months with Brooke Warner. We were talking about the place where suddenly there's a lag in energy, where the forward motion of the writing slows to a stop. As soon as I said it, we both laughed with recognition. All writers experience some kind of breakdown/slowdown as part of the writing process, but it’s a challenge to figure out what is happening and how to move forward … [Read more...]

Three Stages of Memoir Writing

    When you write a memoir, the journey will change you. There is no way that we can encounter art, the imagination, and our inner psyches without being changed by the experience. And just like any journey, it shifts our perspective on life and on ourselves. You will not be the same person who began the journey.   As poet T. S. Eliot wrote in his wonderful poem “Four Quartets” You are not the same people who left that station Or who will arrive at any terminus. … [Read more...]

Begin your Memoir by Mining Your Memories

  Writers often struggle with the issue of memory: do I have enough memories to write a memoir? Are my memories “correct?” Do I have a right to remember things the way I do even if people disagree with me. There’s no such thing as correct memory, Memory is about perception and interpretation. Everyone’s view of an event is like a slice of pie—each section looks toward the middle from a different angle. Everyone in a family would write a different memoir—if they dared! The first step in … [Read more...]

Strategies for Handling Scope in Memoir

Many writers come to their memoirs with so much information, back story, and details about their lives that the prospect of narrowing down their scope or even knowing where to begin can feel daunting and elusive. When it’s your own story, it’s tough to be objective, so it’s important to determine as early as possible whether you have a chronologically-driven or thematically-driven narrative. The first is simpler to execute. Your story unfolds on a timeline, and you need to be careful not to … [Read more...]

The What, Why, and How of Memoir Writing

What is a Memoir? A memoir is a blend of real and imaginary, it’s a story that reads like fiction but it’s based on real happenings, feelings, and people. It’s understood these days that a memoir is “the truth” written as accurately as possible, and the fact that your story is true carries weight. Readers grab onto a true story in a powerful way because they identify with the real people who are the “characters” in a memoir. We identify with characters in fiction, too, and we also learn from … [Read more...]

Give Yourself Permission

Linda Joy and I talk incessantly about permission-giving when it comes to writing memoir. It’s one of the most important things writers of memoir need to allow themselves in order to write. Many writers who want to write memoir find themselves stuck right out the gate, grappling with voices both internal and external: Who gives you the right to write that? What if that’s not how it really happened? You’re not supposed to talk about your family that way. We’ve both heard these messages and … [Read more...]

Memoir Writing Tips | Your Journey to MemoirLand

  Memoir is a very popular genre right now, one that draws people from all ages and all levels of experience. It's truly a grass roots movement about the passion to tell and share our stories. When we write a memoir, we embark upon a journey—to the land of memory, to the heart of who we are and were, to the past, and to discovery--of aspects of ourselves, of new insights into our family and the times. We honor those we loved, and we name things that were never named. The memoir becomes an … [Read more...]