Memoir writers have a few different motivations.
“I want to share my story with other people in the same situation.”
“I want to give hope to women.”
“I want to make people laugh. (Or cry… or both.)”
Something that we memoir writers sometimes think, but don’t often say, is that we may want to write our stories to make ourselves feel better.
Telling your story is a cathartic experience. It changes things in your heart. It focuses your mind. It resolves stuff.
Sometimes, it helps you clarify your present, understand your relationships, get a hold of your motivations.
Overall, it acts as a stage curtain, sweeping across one ‘act’ of your life. “This is finished now,” it says, in a dramatic way. “You can move on.”
The physical act of writing your memoir has an effect on you that you can’t understand, and you can’t quantify until you’ve done it. Somehow, in the thinking, and the writing, and the reliving of the old experiences, you’re able to make peace with yourself.
And then, the changes happen. I’ve seen people write their stories and grow in confidence and purpose. They’re able to move forward and break new ground.
I experienced this myself several years ago. After the diagnosis of my son with a chronic condition that brought trauma to our family life for over five years, I felt like I was swirling. Things had improved, but I was still stuck in what I’d lived through.
I decided that writing my story was something I needed to do – for myself, and my own peace of mind. It did help, in remarkable ways. Even as a writer, I was surprised by the effect it had on me. Where there was mostly grief and crisis, now there was mostly peace and acceptance.
Not everyone has a story of trauma and grief to tell. But if you’re read this, it’s likely you’ve got some kind of story itching in your heart, waiting to get out.
Maybe you’re scared of revisiting old feelings. Maybe you feel guilty for putting so much time into something that doesn’t seem that important to anyone but yourself.
But be encouraged: the simple act of writing your story is going to be powerful and transformative in your life. The more you allow yourself to go along with the process, the more you can gain from the huge emotional benefits of memoir writing.
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