Breaking Silences: Safe Ways for Memoirists to Tell Their Truths

Breaking Silences: Safe Ways for Memoirists to Tell Their Truths

In July, I spoke at the Story Circle Women’s Writing Conference—a group of bright, energetic, and eager writers of all genres. What moved me most was the look in some of the women’s eyes as they told me how much they needed to hear permission, again, to write and tell their stories–from me and from other teachers at the conference. Most of us struggle with how to feel internal permission to write what most needs to be written—the deep truths that have shaped and governed our lives. It helps to get encouragement, to hear how important this is, over and over again.

We know that there are things that get in the way—shame, fear of judgment from family and friends, and our own reluctance/fear to put into words painful things that we have experienced. These reasons not to write or explore the depths and layers of our stories fight with the need to be authentic and real, and to be who we really are.

How can we break through these barriers? It’s not easy—just “deciding” may not be enough. Our intellect, our thinking mind, understands that we can and should write our truths, that it might be beneficial. Freeing. It says yes, and it knows that may other people have done this. That it’s possible. But…the real problem is our emotional self. It’s cautious and protective of us. Sometimes we call the voice that silences us “the inner critic.” But perhaps it’s not only critical—it’s protecting you from being hurt.

How do we work toward breaking open and telling the truth? How can we feel more permission? One technique for protection is to make lists—lists help to contain the emotions that can feel like they are “too much” when we’re exploring truth and secrets.

Another technique is to keep your writing private. Share carefully when you decide to share, and remember that family and friends may have a different perspective from you. If you get negative feedback, it can stop you from writing honestly. Protect your creative self!


  • List the 5 things that you are most afraid to write about.
  • Take each one on your list and freewrite for 3 minutes why you are afraid what you think might happen.
  • List the secrets that you aren’t ready to write about.
  • List what you imagine people will say if you write your truths.
  • Keep writing! Find a writing buddy you can send your work to.
  • Take classes, and engage with other writers regularly–it’s like watering your garden. Your veggies grow better with more water.

The more you write, the more you will write! It’s amazing, as if you become your own cheerleader. And community offers help–writing conferences, writing sites online, and bookstore readings. All these connections feed your writing soul. Each new piece leads to another. Enjoy!