Memoir is a powerful thing. We love reading stories of love, loss and transformation.
True stories are powerful. They inspire us on a deeply personal level. As Brene Brown says, we’re hardwired for story. It’s how we learn.
Writing a memoir, though, can be challenging. Where do you start? How do you narrow down your story? How do you shape it? How do you navigate the emotional terrain of delving into the heart of who you are?
And what do you do when the initial excitement wears off and you find yourself in the mucky middle of writing a book? How do you get back on track?
Here’s the truth: writing a memoir is a journey. Trust and perseverance are critical parts of the process. So are craft and technique. Structure, accountability and encouragement are also important. A consistent writing practice is what will help you cross the finish line.
Can you write a memoir in 6 weeks?
Will it take 10 years?
It doesn’t need to!
Getting clear on the big picture questions—why you’re writing this book, who it’s for—before you start writing can save you massive amounts of time, money and frustration.
You’ll also want to do an honest check-in with yourself. Do you have enough distance from your transformational event to write about it? Have you worked your way through your story?
Keep checking in with yourself as you go, especially if you’re feeling stuck. Maybe you thought you’d worked through your story, but have uncovered a new level of understanding. This is a common occurrence with memoir. After all, you’re writing about your life—the one you’re still living!
Getting clear on the parameter of your story also helps.
The answers to all of these questions will impact how quickly you’ll be able to bring your book into the world. If you don’t have enough distance or perspective around your story quite yet, yes, your memoir will take longer to complete.
Does that mean you shouldn’t start writing? Not at all. It just means that you won’t be finishing your manuscript overnight.
About a year into writing The Secret Life of Grief, I was feeling really stuck and frustrated. My mother had died the year before and I wanted to be done with my grief memoir already, damn it. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I also wanted to be finished with the grief process.
A wise friend encouraged me not to push it. Gently and compassionately, she reminded me that I was still grieving. I was still learning. The book would come when the book was ready, she said. Until then, my job was to live the story and heal myself.
She was right. The Secret Life of Grief came out 2.5 years after that conversation, and I needed every bit of that time for my book to grow it into itself. Although I was still writing, still taking notes and crafting the story, the book itself wasn’t quite ready to be birthed.
Here’s the thing: writing a memoir is a bit like baking a cake. There’s an alchemy that happens in the baking process, and it’s not something that can be rushed. Timing matters. Setting aside 1-2 hours a day to write, however, can significantly shorten the process. So can getting the right support.
Is it worth it?
Writing a book is on bucket lists for a reason. And writing a memoir can be a truly life-changing process. The freedom that comes from telling your story is like no other.
So go out and get the support you need to get started on your memoir. Take a class, join a writer’s group, find an accountability buddy or hire a book coach. Follow what’s right for you.
Then do it. Your story matters!
(This was part 3 of a 3-part series. Click here to read the earlier posts: Part 1: Should You Abandon Your Project or Keep Going? Part 2: 15 Ways to Get Unstuck and Reboot Your Writing Project.)
And now for today’s big news:
Registration is now open for my new, 6-week online course, How to Write Your Memoir!
Woo-hoo! I am SO excited to bring you this course, I can’t even tell you. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time.
What does this course cover? Is it right for you? Click here to read a full description.
In the meantime, here’s a brief overview:
Ready to tell your story, but aren’t sure where to start? In this 6-week online course, we’ll delve into the heart of your story, uncover its transformational power, and teach you how to bring your story to life on the page. I’ll walk you through the craft and technique of memoir, show you how to create a writing schedule that works for you, and help you navigate writer’s block as well as the complex ethical questions that come from sharing your life story.
We’ll cover the ingredients of a compelling memoir, from finding your story’s specific structure to creating a cohesive narrative to ensuring that your story’s main characters and pivotal scenes are powerfully rendered on the page. We’ll also discuss your book’s larger path in the world, exploring traditional publishing as well as indie publishing and deciding which is a better fit for you.
If this resonates with you, please join us! This course is packed full of everything you need to know to write a compelling memoir–everything I’ve learned in 20 years of teaching, plus everything I’ve learned as a lifelong writer and reader of memoir.
- 6 modules on craft and technique, structure, strategies and mindset,
- 4 fabulous interviews jam-packed with expert advice, and
- plenty of coaching and support from me, as well as your fellow writers.
You can take everything at your own pace, and you can choose the level of commitment and interaction that’s right for you.
Finally, I’m offering a bonus kick-off group coaching call for those who register by September 17. So don’t delay! We’re going to have a fabulous group, and if this course calls out to you, we’d love to have you join us. Here’s the course link again:
Reach out if you have any questions about this course or anything else. I’d love to learn how I can best support you.