After the discouraging, depressing articles about bad memoir writers in the news, we have something good to report from an article in the Huffington Post titled Actually, Memoir IS All About You. How nice to hear that we can write about ourselves and not feel like we are a bunch of navel-gazing, narcissistic, nobodies who are boring the world with our stories—as reported from on high in a New York Times article by Neil Genzlinger a few weeks ago.
I had to wonder if he’d ever been faced with a memoir challenge: write for thirty minutes about the most meaningful experience of your life. That’s what those who were in Dr. James Pennebaker’s early studies about writing and healing, writing and transformation did, and so have many others who go on to write and publish well written books that inspire others. I talk about those studies and the power of writing to create new perspectives and new mindsets in my book The Power of Memoir. My guess is that he might fail the test.
Memoir writing is not for the faint of heart. Betty Davis said, “Getting old is not for sissies,” and the same is true for writing a memoir. We need to find our tribe, those of like mind who are exploring the planet, whether internally, externally, or both, and feel ourselves supported and buoyed up by being around them. We need to listen to that still small voice that invites us to write, to break open the silence in our lives. To speak our truths. When we do that, we open the world to us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. What is your writing tribe? Do you have support in your writing life?
Yesterday I was invited to participate in a wonderful teleseminar by Tina Games who is relaunching her book Journaling by the Moonlight. I met several women I didn’t know—though I knew Tina and Ruth Folit, who has produced the Life Journal program to journal online. Tamara Gold and Lynn Serafinn were new to me, but 90 minutes later, after talking about the transformational power of writing, the spiritual strength that writing can offer us, I felt connected and re-energized about my own writing and what I do with memoir writers.
This is some of what we were all saying:
- Writing is transformational.
- Writing creates new insights and awareness.
- Writing frees us to find our truths and deepen our connection with ourselves.
- Writing invites our Whole Self to revel in the creativity and passion of who we really are.
The purpose of writing is to discover, uncover, and recover –and to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. First, we write for ourselves—not worrying about judgments or criticism—then we write to communicate to others. We might begin in a journal, and continue the journaling as we write our personal stories in a memoir, which is constructed of scenes and created to bring others into our experience.
Memoirs are more popular than ever! Let your voice be heard, and write a new story today! In your journal, online, to a friend, or as a new chapter in your book.
Sign up for the NAMW newsletter to find out what memoir writers are up to, and to get writing articles and prompts in your inbox to feed the flame of your writing passion. Best of luck in your writing life!
National Association of Memoir Writers to Offer New Memoir Writing Tele-class this Fall
6 Memoir Writing Tele-classes with Online Writing Support Component
Writing Your Memoir One Story at a Time
Instructor: Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D.
When: 6 Fridays Beginning October 1st (class will not meet October 15, 2010)
Time: 1 PM PDT | 2 MDT | 3 CDT | 4 EDT
Cost: $175 for NAMW Lifetime Members / $190 for NAMW Annual members / $325 for non-NAMW members | Become a NAMW member to receive a discount!
Writing a memoir is fun, challenging and…it asks you by the nature of being what it is, to dance with your memories, to dig into the images in your mind, and to relive them by recreating them on the page. Most of the time, this is enjoyable. How I enjoyed capturing some of the special moments of my life with people I loved—my great-grandmother in her garden, Mr. Brauninger my music teacher skipping into the fourth grade class, soaring on his violin. Other memories were more challenging—my mother coming and going on the train, the family struggles that I witnessed, my pounding heart.
This six week course will address both the emotional and the technical aspects of writing a memoir from truth and secrets to the reasons for writing in scene and learning about plot. You will be able to share vignettes from your own life in the workshop and receive feedback and support from your fellow writers.
Join us for “school” this fall in a memoir workshop that anyone can join. You do not need to already have a memoir started. You can begin now or come with your work in progress.
Secrets and truth. Family conflicts. Having a Beginner’s Mind. Mining Your Memories
Beginning means to be open to what needs to come. Sometimes we need to figure out how to deal with the secrets and family issues before we can feel free to write. We will talk about truth, secrets, how to begin, and how to create a safe writing world for yourself in this first meeting. You will begin to list the memories and snapshots you want to capture.
Themes of your Life and Your Turning Points
We will talk about the importance of finding your themes; the turning points exercise helps you to do this. The themes of your work are a thread that continues throughout the piece, a path through the forest of ideas and words. Dark and light stories in your memoir—keeping the balance.
Scenes; Sensual Details, and Creating Memories on the Page
Scenes are important building blocks of stories. We will talk about what makes up a scene, and learn about using sensual details of sight, sound, texture, and taste.
Dialogue and setting; Character Portraits; Painting with Words
Creating worlds with words. Painting with words. Word play by writing quick flashes to capture moments. Experimenting with language, imagery, and snapshots.
The narrative arc; how to understand what it is and how to use it to help you craft your memoir. The narrative voice, narrative arc, and plot create a structure for your work.
The Power of Writing a Memoir
We will wrap up the course by listing the ways you can keep your writing life going, finding a schedule and developing a plan for your memoir. The benefits, challenges and rewards of writing a memoir and keeping your writing life supported are all part of being a writer. Issues such as healing, resolution, and forgiveness are part of this week’s discussion.