“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin
We all have a book inside of us; a story that only we can tell. For those of us who wish to put our stories into words that will inspire and touch others, it can be a transformative process.
What is a memoir?
A memoir is a portion of one’s life told as a story with a focus on a specific theme, often referred to as a “slice-of life.” My work-in-progress is about the power of hope through my faith.
Why write a memoir?
This is a very personal decision requiring self-exploration and honesty. Some people start out thinking they want to write a memoir but once they begin uncovering their truths decide it would be safer/easier/better to write their story as fiction.
That’s fine. There’s plenty of room for good stories, both fiction and nonfiction. Then, some people, like me, decide:
- their life matters,
- their story not only deserves to be told, it needs to be told, and
- they are the only ones who can tell it.
Deciding to write a memoir was just something I felt in my bones. Again, a very personal decision.
What’s it like to write a memoir?
Photo Credit: Transformation by Inky Squid uploaded from Flickr by Kathy
Solitary. Painful. Awkward. Exhilarating. Fulfilling. Frustrating. Sweaty. Mind-boggling. Life-affirming. Grueling. Scary. Empowering, Healing, Transformational…
I figure I have an unwritten contract with my potential reader to give voice to my own life experiences in a way that will engage, entertain, inspire, educate and to help them connect with their own life experiences.
Here are my life lessons through my life experiences. Come with me and I’ll show you how I survived and grew. Maybe you can too.
How do I engage with my reader through memoir?
Sharing stories through memoir can lead to connections. Although writing is a very solitary activity, we can touch so many others through our stories. If the reader can see their own story through your story, their eyes can be opened to a new experience.
The question I ask myself is “Can I strike a universal theme in my own unique way?”
When the memoirist transports the reader into a story through dialogue, sensory details, and scenes and then reflects on the meaning of the event, the reader can be a part of the story.
Here’s an excerpt from Sacred Ground, a story about my nursing career:
The dimly-lit lamp cast a shadow of itself as I approach my silent patient who had curled up in a fetal position, facing the stark white wall. The sadness is palpable. This thirty-five year-old man is dying of colon cancer.
I hesitate at the door, pondering how a young man, five years older than I can be dying, his scared wife immersed in her own grief in the waiting room. What in the world can I say or do beyond my routine nursing duties? It’s easy take a blood pressure or administer a medication, but this young man is dying and I am his nurse.
As I slowly walk to his bedside, I hear his slow, rhythmic breathing. His dinner tray is untouched, the metal dish cover still in place over the plate.
“Mr. Jacobs, I’ll be your nurse this evening. My name is Kathy.” I lean in and gently touch his arm.
Slowly nodding, he opens his eyes and turns to me. Such sad, dark eyes. His thick black hair is plastered against his moist forehead and I see the yellow tone of his skin, a sign that the cancer has spread to his liver. He must have been a very handsome man in his healthy days, I think as I try to grasp the reality before me.
“Is there anything you need right now?” My own words echo a hollowness that underscores the deep sadness I am feeling.
How is a memoir transformational?
Photo Credit: Butterfly uploaded from Flickr by Kathy
I have found healing by facing painful realizations about my past regrets, missteps and foolhardy choices and this has lead to self-forgiveness.
Lisa Dale Norton (http://lisadalenorton.com/) in her book, Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir, (http://www.amazon.com/Shimmering-Images-Little-Writing-Memoir/dp/0312382928) says, “You must voice your own stories to get beyond them.” (p.15) h
When you have to shape your life story into a narrative arc with a beginning, middle and end, you the writer begin to make connections about the meaning of these events.
Writing a memoir has helped me to find my truths and to stand firmly in them. http://krpooler.com/2011/06/10/standing-in-my-truth-through-self-forgiveness/
By sharing my story in an engaging way, my reader and I become linked.
Memoir writing has a transformative potential when the reader sees her own story reflected in the experience of others. Both writer and reader are changed. http://www.thirdspace.ca/journal/article/viewArticle/hammerwold/138
I want to experience the transformative power of memoir writing. Where do I start?
You’ve probably heard the saying “Memoir writing is not for sissies.” It’s true. Memoir writing is hard work and requires every ounce of discipline, courage and persistence you can muster.
If you decide you have a story to tell and it will be in the form of a memoir then here’s my best advice:
Study the art and craft of writing memoir. Find a mentor. Join a critique group. Journal. Take deep breaths. Exercise. Cry. Laugh. Reach out. Pray/Meditate.
Above all, believe deep in your core that you have a story to tell and only you can tell it.
Then write your heart out. Daily. On a schedule.
Be transformed and transform your readers.
My website, Memoir Writer’s Journey is dedicated to memoir writing. Stop by and join in the conversation and check out the Memoir Resources tab.
Have you experienced transformation in writing or reading a memoir? How has a memoir changed you?
This post is Copyright Kathleen Pooler 2012. All Rights Reserved Internationally.