by Jerry Waxler, author of Memoir Revolution: Write Your Story, Change the World
Early in my journey to write my memoir, I encountered an age-old problem. My mind was devilishly clever at undermining me. Who will read it? It’s not interesting. I’m not good enough. I’ll do it later. I’ll do it someday.
If my goal had been to jump into an ice-cold swimming pool, perhaps I could have overcome my reluctance by screaming “Just do it.”
But weaving my reflections on the past into a good story required thousands of small steps. Other than perhaps the first one of sitting in front of the computer, none responded very well to screams.
Writing a memoir turned out to be a journey in its own right, in which I had to steer through all sorts of fears, self-doubts and other mental obstacles I encountered on the way. I soon realized I was creating two parallel hero’s journeys.
Hero’s Journey #1 was the story I was trying to write about a character trying to discover a better version of himself.
In order to create that story, I had to go on Hero’s Journey #2, developing introspective skills, teasing out scenes, and courageously facing the tasks of writing and revising.
When I started writing my memoir, though, I didn’t see myself as the hero of anything. However, one thing I did know a lot about was self-help, which I had been studying for years. While most self-help books and recordings focused on becoming a better business person, I extracted those aspects that would make me a more creative person.
So when I became attracted to memoir writing, I realized that achieving my goal required a specialized application of the self-help field. Another source of psychological insight into the creative process came from the helping profession of psychotherapy. I had recently graduated with a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and had often considered my psychotherapy training in relationship to the creative process.
One of the most important and exciting bits of self-help advice I had come across was to “write as if you were speaking to an interested audience.” That advice has motivated me for years, because as I write, I find myself engaged with the people who might want to hear what I have to say. This desire to communicate makes writing so much easier and more interesting.
The fact that you are reading this places you in that category of a curious audience, interested in what I have to say about memoirs, so I’m thinking of you when I write. ?
If you are attempting to write your memoir, be sure to populate your imaginary audience with compassionate memoir readers who are deeply interested in other people. These readers want to know all about you. By maintaining a loving, mutually respectful relationship with this imaginary audience, you will be able to turn your writing sessions into engaging stories about the dramatic tensions, the difficulties, and the courage of your journey.
As I continued to gather strategies, I shared them with other writers. Teaching self-help workshops to writers was a new venture for me. Instead of just thinking about these techniques for myself, I began to see them as shareable skills writers can learn together.
Based on the workshops, I compiled a self-development workbook called How to Become a Heroic Writer, Train Your Brain to Build Habits, Overcome Obstacles, and Reach Readers.
If you have an interest in the techniques and insights afforded by the self-help and psychology movements, take a look at my book. Working through the lessons and writing exercises will provide you with a series of interlocking skills that will arm you for the journey to become a writer.
Click here. for links to other posts about memoir reading and writing.