by Jerry Waxler
I have been a fan of Linda Joy Myers ever since I read her memoir “Don’t Call Me Mother.” (Also see my essay “Mothers and Daughters Don’t Always Mix“) The book was straightforward and elegant, transforming a painful past into a compelling story. When I reached out to learn more about how she wrote it, she explained that writing the memoir was itself a journey that lasted more than a decade. During that period, she developed a more sophisticated understanding of her own childhood and at the same time learned the craft of storytelling.
Linda Joy wanted to share these benefits with others so she offered memoir writing workshops and then started the National Association of Memoir Writers, an organization that offers courses, teleseminars, support, and other benefits to aspiring memoir writers everywhere.
I already knew that Linda Joy brings compassion and insight to the memoir field, so I was eager to read her new book “The Power of Memoirs, Writing Your Healing Story.” The book covers the basics of scene and plot to help writers weave the skein of events into a story worth reading. It also offers valuable tips for writers you won’t find in other books, such as insight into the knack of accepting feedback from a critique group, in my opinion one of the most important tools any writer can have.
And then, Linda Joy goes beyond craft and turns inward towards the heart of the matter. As a professional psychotherapist, Linda Joy helps her clients work through their memories. In this book, she performs a similar service for aspiring memoir writers. In hefty, substantive chapters like “Psychology of Memoir Writing,” “The Dark Stuff,” and “The Power of Writing to Heal” Linda Joy provides excellent guidance to help you decipher your memories and bring them to the page.
A key goal of a memoir is to portray other characters in your life. This can be especially complex when trying to explain parents, grandparents, and siblings who were influencing you while you were under construction. They are part of you. And so, the more you understand those relationships the better you understand yourself. “The Power of Memoir” offers tips about how to write about family. By seeing them through the eyes of a writer, you will gain fresh perspectives and piece together a more sensible story about your family than the one that was shapelessly tangled in memory.
I have been searching for years to find language to express the spirituality of life. Linda Joy’s “Power of Memoir” contains a superb section about this topic. When writing a memoir, we review our past and explore the way we were influenced by our higher power, our religious framework, and other aspects of the inner connections known broadly as “spirituality.”
However, the past is not the only time frame at work here. You actually write the memoir in the present, a journey that both require spiritual strength and generates it. Linda Joy lovingly offers guidance that fosters this connection with the inner self, to help you get in touch with spirituality right here and now.
While many authors and teachers observe the healing nature of memoir writing, these observations do not constitute the kind of scientific research that would support its use as a form of therapy. To find such evidence, Linda Joy turns to the research of psychologist James Pennebaker from the University of Texas who has spent his academic career studying this question. His research offers a fascinating look at the emotional benefits of writing. Linda Joy also cites brain imaging research that offers additional evidence for these benefits.
This book will help you write yours
So whether you want to write your memoir because you are curious about yourself, or you want to heal old hurts, or you want to share your journey with other people, or you want to strengthen your brain, or you consider writing to be a wonderful hobby, or you wish to publish a book and enter the stream of culture – for any of these reasons, you will benefit from traveling in Linda Joy’s company while discovering the Healing Power of your own memoir.
More memoir writing resources
To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on this blog, click here.
To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.