Sitting alone in a crowded hole
Demons possess my inner soul
Caught in a place I can’t escape
The only way is to sit and wait
Fight the thoughts that encompass my mind.
Hurry up, I’ll soon go blind!
Blind to the consciousness of right and wrong
To lose that feeling, everything’s gone
Be strong enough to conquer the worst.
Crawl out of the hole is what to do first.
– from my novel Broken Smiles by Tara Mayoros
(image found on canyon collective.com)
Sometimes we are stuck in the holes of our own making. We crawl, we fight, and we can emerge from our despair.
Recently I attended an intimate writers workshop. For some reason, many of the attendees have written or are in the process of writing memoirs. Most of the stories were born from past tragedies of life changing accidents, abuse, and thoughts of suicide. Words bring people together. Words heal. There is something uniquely sweet when virgin words are shared. Un-jaded by the industry, those shared moments whittled away at my heart and left me bleeding for their sorrow.
What does it mean to be brave?
Being brave to me, is sharing words that you know will cause a stir, maybe even a hurricane. One woman shared a piece that was gut-wrenchingly beautiful. She had sat on it for months and months, not wanting to offend others or tell her inner most secrets. Maybe it was because none of us knew each other before hand, or maybe she needed to have validation. For whatever the reason, she shared, and cried… and noticeably, a weight was lifted.
The instructor made a very good point when writing a difficult memory… write it with all of the emotion and feelings attached. Do not fight, do not filter your words. It is therapy. Feel what you write, if you want it to be felt by others.
Then, finally, when the story within you has been told, and a certain time and space has distanced you from it, dissect the placement of each word and scene. Don’t be hasty in publishing your final memoir. When writing memoirs, ask for permission from real life characters because everyone has a different side of the story. Or change the characters enough to not be obvious. When writing characters from real life, you run the risk of keeping those people and scenes in the past. You have suspended them in time by publishing them into your book. Do not imprison you and your characters into a book that you wrote fifteen years ago and the situation and people have changed personally.
Expect others to shy away from you. Expect judgements. You must put aside the fear of upsetting friends or family members. It will stunt you if you can’t get past writing the “safe” writing. If your words emerged from a sincere and ernest soul, how could you keep those words inside of you to simmer and boil from the inside? It feels a lot like climbing out of a dark hole, not knowing what the terrain will be like once you have solid ground.
Here are a few ways to dig deep and write a memoir:
Narrow down your life experience: A memoir isn’t your autobiography, it is a peek into your life. It is often one experience that impacted your life greatly. Focus on this one experience to share your message.
Pull out old photos, journals, and objects: This will help bring back the memories. These objects tie you to the past and will help you relive and resurrect the thoughts and feelings you had at the time.
Allow your emotions to flow: Do not write from your mind. Write from your heart. If the memories are scary and confronting, do not close your heart. Your writing will fall flat. I think it is important to write everyday to keep the feelings alive and fresh.
The silver lining of the long unseen clouds is that your memoir has the ability to change lives.
Many of the authors at the workshop, who were brave and took the plunge of publishing difficult words, shared reviews and comments from readers. The readers said that their books saved their own life or changed how they viewed the world. What better payback is there? No amount of royalties or fame can compare.
Isn’t it worth the fear of being judged?
I have started writing two different memoirs. It is difficult. Much harder than writing fiction or even non-fiction. Quite honestly, I have written fiction to escape what I would put into my memoir. I don’t know when I will ever be able to share my memoir, but in the meantime, I answer the call of my memories and crawl out of the hole which has kept me prisoner… and just write.
I love to hear from you. Please comment if you write memoirs or even blog and journal and have insight.