Sunday, October 14, 2012

What's The Harm in Publishing Your Memoir?

What's the harm in publishing your memoir?   The answer was swift from one writer.   "It could change relationships."  Dwelling on that issue is without a doubt the greatest obstacle to many fine memoirs being finished and published. The concern of going public with a memoir that could paint an unflattering portrait - at least in the eyes of the person being written about - tends to overwhelm the writer, paralyze her. She becomes obsessed with questions about "betrayal" and "disloyalty."
Others, as voiced at the Women's Writing Circle, "have moved way beyond," those concerns.  They are the writers standing the best chance of finishing their projects.
Instead of the negative, let's turn to the positive side of writing a memoir.  As one writer said yesterday, "We are bearing witness to our journey."  I have written about this before; the generosity of sharing our stories. Many in the Circle agree that it is through our writing we have come to know each other better than many of our family and friends know us.  Not only have we borne witness to our story, we have thrown out a "creative lifeline" . . .one person bears witness, leading another and another to do the same.
No author should go lightly into publishing a memoir.  Rule Number One. It takes hard work to write a worthy book.  That means delivering information and experiences that help others, while engaging them in a "good read." If we write an engaging story, then it goes without saying we moved beyond the "fishbowl" of one life and broadened our story into the universal experience.

Concentrating on the positive, rather than the negative, frees us.  It unblocks our stalled energy, our demons, not just as writers, but as human beings.  Yesterday, one woman turned to me and said, "Why am I so hard on myself?  So what if I make a mistake? I move beyond that, shrug, and laugh it off, learn from it." 
Does your story harm others?  If the story is overpowered by bitterness, vengeance, regrets, you need to take a second look. Such a story harms you, the writer, as much as anyone.  The lessons of memoir - healing, writing about obstacles and how to overcome them . . . sharing a powerful and empowering journey . . . have not been learned or appreciated.
One of the writers at yesterday's Circle suggested a writing prompt:  What are you most afraid of?  Do you know?


Linda said...

Hi Susan. What a great question! I am writing my memoir "one blog post at a time" right now, and I am doing it under a pseudonym. Reason? Fear, I suppose. I am writing about my traumatic history and my bout with serious mental illness in my twenties. I am now a sixty-one year old psychotherapist, and I am afraid that if others know what I have experienced, they will have a hard time believing I am well enough to help others.

Unknown said...

Susan, this is really an interesting perspective on writing memoirs. Definitely agree they should be written in the form of healing, instead of hurting.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Linda, Congratulations on having the courage to write your memoir. If the story is told well, with honesty and authenticity, people will believe you. Then you can let go because this is the truth of your story.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Sharla, I agree. This is the gift of memoir in that it allows us a way to heal, to move on, to share our life's journey with others in an utterly unselfish act.


Great topic Susan.

Your writer's group sounds like a wonderful place to be.

Ah yes, fear. I've been well acquainted with it for many years. It sure can block us from many of the blessings life has to offer.

At some point, I can't recall exactly when, my desire to tell my story became greater than my fear of the exposure, the fear of offending somone and the fear of retribution. Part of it, I think, was reading other people's memoirs and realizing that if they could do it, why couldn't I?

Will my memoir hurt others? Possibly. This isn't my intention but in telling my truth, others may be offended. I think writing my first bazillion really rough drafts helped (hopefully) me get rid of all that toxic stuff.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Thank you for stopping by, Grace and sharing your insights. It sounds like you have had a wonderful journey writing your memoir. I agree with you that the desire to write the truth of our stories as a healing journey and to reach others and touch their lives surpasses the fear of exposure. Until we overcome that fear, it blocks creativity and makes it difficult to move forward. Good luck with your book.