In writing a memoir, all of us, at one time or another, come against the fear of revealing too much of ourselves. The fear is founded—it’s not always a friendly world out there. And…
As we reveal too much about ourselves, we may be revealing too much about someone else.
But, excessive revealing is generally not the problem most memoir writers face. Revealing too little is a much more frequent problem for writers I coach or edit.
Often revealing too little can come about because:
- you want to conceal something. If this is you, you are probably heading for some writer’s block. You can move ahead with some inner work. What are you concealing? Have you articulated it clearly to yourself? (Sometimes people are inhibited by vague feelings that they are not quite aware of.) What would happen if you told your truth, write about what you are concealing? What do you need to resolve or to whom do you need to speak to to be freed to tell your truth? Give yourself permission to write only for yourself—for the moment.you had not thought through what you are writing. This comes about with fast writing or with lazy writing.
- you are not revealing much because you simply have not taking the time to consider deeper feelings. On the most basic level, when you write something like “in those days, everyone did…,” you are onto evasive writing. Generalizing is a way of not revealing your truth. Stop to ask yourself “What do I really mean to write here?” A careful look at any generalization will reveal exceptions. The next question then becomes what do these exceptions have or do that
- we find telling the truth to be to technically difficult. Sometimes the situation requires a bit of nuanced writing that requires more of a background and perhaps a variety of images and metaphors that you are not willing to take the time to create. I can often tell when a writer avoids technical difficulty. One coaching client completely changed the family dynamic because “it was easier to write it that way.” Fortunately for the memoir, it was easy to spot the inauthentic writing. With some rewriting—actually a lot of rewriting—the text began to reveal the writer’s truth.
Last week, I left a post on the blog entitled Seven Reasons for Writing a More Personal Memoir. I hope you will read it and leave comment.
Have you dealt with this issue? Share with us below.
We have helped many people whose lives demanded to be recorded but who themselves were not writers to create interesting and well-written memoirs.
We listen to you speak your story. We ask you a multitude of questions. Then we get to work writing. We come back to you with text and you make lots of corrective comments and we ask you a whole lot of new questions. Then, we go back to writing again.
Over time, your story develops into a memoir—one that you have shaped at every stage of the writing process.
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