Considerations in writing your memoirs.
One of the main concerns for many people wanting to write their memoirs is who to leave in and who to leave out. In both cases peoples feelings can be hurt. If this is addressed early on the whole project can go much faster and smoother. A good memoir is one where the author is free to discuss topics openly. this quality is what make memoirs so intriguing to readers. Please check out my memoir ghostwriting services at http://sirjohn.org/MemoirGhostWritingServices.htm
Award Winning Novelist
The Dangers of Memoir Writing
By: Linda Joy Myers
I have taught memoir writing for many years, and have always encouraged people to write their personal stories. After all, my belief is that writing is good for you, it is healing–I have seen this many times for myself and for others–and it frees the writers to move on to other new levels of interacting with their memories.
Of course, in all my classes and workshops we discuss the issues of family–the writer’s worry about how family will react to their stories, will it make things worse? Will they be attacked or judged for what they say on the page–this is assuming that they show their writing to others or are published.
But recently I have found from interactions with an older generation in my family, it doesn’t matter if I wrote my truth. It doesn’t matter if I stand behind the story I told. It doesn’t matter if I have not named names or told the most secret stories.
What matters is that I have written anything about the family. What matters is that I have written a book, and told stories about the family, benign though they were. This appears to be threatening. I have discovered that people may judge you for writing even if they have not read the book, that they may project their own imagined fears and perhaps guilt–about what we may never know–onto the person who takes the risk to speak out, to write, to publish.
I always felt that I was safe from retribution in writing Don’t Call Me Mother because the people I write the most about–my mother, grandmother and father, the main characters in the book, were dead. I knew they wouldn’t like it, but I knew that I had to tell the take of the generations of mothers who had abandoned their daughters. I also wanted to honor my Iowa family and tell the stories of how I felt loved and accepted there, how my great-grandmother and great aunts and uncles had made me feel less abandoned.
I left out the molesting uncles, I left out the confrontation with one of them later in my life. I left out what I felt were stories that would distract from my main story about the mothers. But who knows if the legacy of sexual abuse is not part of their story too? I heard rumors about grandfathers and uncles who were “to be watched out for.” I heard stories about hands up little girl’s dresses. I knew that my grand mother ran away from her grandparent’s home when she was 16. I don’t know why. I do know that she expressed a deep hatred of men when she was raising me. What roots did that have?
I write all this because I see that no matter how hard we may try not to offend and how much we have tried to protect family members, it still may not work. You may find yourself, as I did recently, on the receiving end of an attack, judged and perhaps feared.
Perhaps the pen is the mightiest tool of all. Perhaps we must be prepared for anything. Perhaps writing is a warrior’s path.
But I still say to the writers out there: write your truth, write for yourself. Protect yourself from the judgments of others as long as you can. But if you are published, be prepared for anything.
1. Make a list of the people whom you do not want to offend.
2. Make another list of those whose secrets you know.
3. Write about the secrets and shame-based issues in your family in your journal to clear them out of your head.
4. Look over your memoir and make a list of the stories that implied, even if you had not written them, certain secrets and truths based on what you know about the family.
Don’t tell family members what you are writing about—personal stories or a memoir—until you are finished. It keeps the outer critic from becoming your inner critic.
6. When you are finished, you can change the names of the guilty or the innocent, but if they will know who they are when you publish your work, you need to tell them at this point what you are doing.
7. Consult a literary attorney for advice if you have legal concerns about your writing.
About the Author
Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., the author of Becoming Whole: Writing Your Healing Story, is a workshop and conference coach for writing as a transformative process. Her prize-winning memoir Don’t Call Me Mother is the recipient of the 2006 Gold Medal Award from BAIPA, Bay Area Independent Publishing Association.
Becoming Whole has been used as a text by therapists, ministers, and writing coaches. A licensed clinical therapist, Myers demonstrates the power of a memoir to bridge, integrate, and heal the past. www.memoriesandmemoirs.com
(ArticlesBase SC #204047)