Sunday, June 2, 2013

Life-Saving Activity – Writing Your Memoir

I was thrown into a tail spin when my father passed last July. Many people have described me as fearless over the years, and yet, just thinking had become a scary thing. I was processing and reassigning the family dynamics I grew up with. I was acknowledging truths that could not be told to anyone. Nearly a year has passed in trying to sort it all out. 

I finally realized recently that nothing is ever going to change with me until I get my feelings about my life down on paper. What’s been scaring me off was the idea that it would have to be published. Of course not! It only needs to see the light of my own day; that way the thoughts in my head that can drop me like a polio-stricken child can be stopped from whirling constantly around in my head. When I write, everything becomes real. It becomes truth. That’s a bit scary at first, because once you recognize an ugly or unpleasant truth, there’s the problem of keeping it to yourself.  For the original “too-much-information” giver, this can be an issue. 

I’m consciously not editing this piece much because I think it’s critical in writing your memoir to be as authentic and free-flowing as you can. So, actually this is a bit of an exercise as I’m planning to go back to the memoir when I’m done here. 

I’ve always said, since I was a teenager, that I would be a better writer after my parents were gone. Terrible thought, terrible to say, but still true. That’s because, like most writers, my abilities, whatever they may be, stem from an imperfect past, beginning in childhood. There are many, many things that I want to write honestly about, but can’t because it would hurt too many people.  That need is clawing at my insides, but what I’ve already found, in such a short time, is that beginning…writing…is the true cure. 

Again, it doesn’t ever have to be read, but as I write I’m being as truthful as I can, both about other people and myself. That’s a killer. My goal for about five years now is to be as authentic as I can be. Society really doesn’t permit true authenticity, but a person can get close. I treasure and honor kindness and that doesn’t always blend well with truth, yet I strive to be honest whenever I can.

Writers, and frankly anyone else, if you’re trying to sort things out, get your life back or just get past a particular problem, write about it. If it’s your whole life, then start a memoir. Return to it each time you have a memory that needs examining. Be ruthless, on paper. Don’t share it if you don’t want to. In fact, I urge you to keep it to yourself the first time and see if that doesn’t make you more “for real.”

I’ve been struggling far too long and am so happy to be back on track that I couldn’t help but share this. I sincerely hope this helps someone else. 


  1. Kathy, good post. It is hard to write about past experiences or even allude to them without worrying about who might get hurt or upset. I cannot tell you the untold volumes that I have written that will likely see the light of day. There are things, like you said, that we have to write and let go of...they are our truth and they have helped to make us who & what we are. If we do write down those situations then we can move past them and get on with our lives and our writing.

    A famous "self help guru type" has a son who wrote a scathing memoir of his life with his dad. The father said that if he'd known his son was going to end up writing a book he would have tried to be a better father.

    I actually think that most parents do the best they can with what they've got and where they "are" with their lives. That doesn't always make them good or even acceptable parents. Also, some really good parents make some horrid missteps in rearing their children. I think I was a reasonably decent parent but I hope I never have to read what my son has to say about his youth and yet, if he felt compelled to write it I would be there cheering him on and giving him support to do so.

    Thank you for sharing your insights. They are thought provoking.



  2. Thanks Ardee-Ann. Having been a parent, very flawed, I have the knowledge that most parents do the best they can. I certainly tried and failed at times. However, my kids and I can talk about it. I urge them to. That's the most important thing and if you can do that so many issues can be put away. If you can't, I highly recommend this route. It is really, really helping me.

  3. Kathy, What a great post doll. The past..Hmm, so many evil demons as you say, "clawing at your insides", yes it is a killer! For myself, and many I know it becomes the whole of what we are and how we manage through our lives.

    I think a book is in order about lives that survive cruel events in childhood, many different aspects, many different lives yet with the same intent, "be happy", I strive for this daily yet it never seems to come because of the demons I have seperated in my soul!

    Koodoos, for your post doll!


    1. Thank you Sherri. I'm not up to doing a book for others. Not qualified for one thing, but this is working for me personally.

  4. My condolences on the death of your father. I certainly understand this need to write one's truth, especially if that has been in some way discouraged or suppressed in one's family of origin. The word of caution I would add is that I feel we need to remember all the time, as writers especially, that the simply act of organising one's life into a coherent narrative is creating a story. The more black and white, good and bad characters and events can be, the better the story. I feel that we may think we're holding back from writing our own story because we don't want to hurt or offend anyone, but maybe more deeply still, we understand as writers the fact that 'truth' is always a fiction, skewed through our own psyche in the moment. Which isn't to say we shouldn't go there, but only we should go there with awareness.

    1. I appreciate what you're saying. It's obvious when you talk to someone about an event that everyone's memories are different. I'm not talking about the memories or truth especially, but much more about feelings. Thanks for the warning.

  5. What a wonderful post filled with truth. Writing is a way to console, to rid, to understand oneself and release demons. It brings on creative feelings that respond to our finger tips.

  6. Thanks Dannie! The combination of this project of mine and adding music back into the mix has chipped off the limestone that had formed around my brain.