May 29, 2013

Writing Your Memoir, If It Feels Right

By Kathleen Pooler

"The marvelous richness of the human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse." 
--- Helen Keller

It's a well-known conclusion in memoir writing circles that writing a memoir is a daunting task fraught with many challenges, not the least being: excavating painful memories, standing in your truth, dealing with family members who might not agree with your perception of significant events.

All that on top of a market that says you have to be a celebrity to sell your story. After all, who would be interested in your ordinary life? Everyone has drama in their lives. What makes your story compelling enough to interest readers?

Why would anybody in their right mind even want to delve into writing a memoir?
Writing is healing. I have a story to tell that may help others. I want to share my life lessons. I can't help myself; the story is begging to be told. There must be a hundred other reasons.

Otherwise, why in the world would I spend my time trying to relive the pain of my past, navigate around family and involved parties for fear of libeling, slandering or offending them with my truth and living up to the expectation to tell my life story so that it reads like a novel?

Why? Because writing feels right.

I have no other explanation.

So, it stands to reason that there are times when I reach the peaks and valleys in my writing life.

The valleys where I feel discouraged, compare myself less favorably to others, wonder if I can really pull off completing a manuscript for publication, feel so spent from fulfilling my author platform requirements through social media channels that there is little focus or energy for my real work, the writing.

But then, there are the peaks of revising a chapter that resonates with my critique group, breaks open new avenues of exploration and discovery, nurtures creativity and validates that I am indeed on the right path. Or the moments of capturing a flow of words in a journal that will later be woven into and enrich my story.

Here's what I've learned in the process:

Sometimes, my greatest breakthroughs come right after my lowest points. My highest peaks are just around the corner from my deepest valleys IF I keep plowing through.
So I will leave you with four tips I have learned on my memoir writer's journey:

1.   Memoir writing is not for sissies. Expect peaks and valleys in your writing.

2.  Persist through the pain and visualize the peak right around the corner from the valley.

3.   No matter what, keep writing a priority -past your inner critic, past the distractions of social media with a caveat that it is also okay to take a break from it all from time to time.

4.  Rejection is part of the process. Figure out a way to get over it and get on with the work at hand. 

Do what it takes to take care of yourself so you can take care of your writing.

How about you? How do you last in the long haul when you have passion for your work?
Kathleen Pooler is a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who is working on a memoir about how the power of hope through her faith in God has helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: and can be found on Twitter @kathypooler and on LinkedIn, Google+, Goodreads and Facebook: Kathleen PoolerOne of her stories “ The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe.

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