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Is Your Memoir Silenced by the Fear of Insignificance?

Fear of insignificance may be a BIG writer’s block

From my own memoir-writing experience and from witnessing the creation experience of memoir writers I have coached, I have found it useful to work with a subcategory of fear as a writing block. Many of us have been silenced by the FEAR OF INSIGNIFICANCE.

Difference between fear of insignificance and fear of mediocrity

It’s a close fear to mediocrity but clearly different. Fear of mediocrity is perhaps about the writing itself—style, vocabulary, organization. The writer is afraid of not being a good writer. Fear of insignificance is about the content of the writing. When a writer is afraid of insignificance, s/he is afraid of having nothing to say—or at least of having nothing significant to say. This writer is afraid of being insignificant as a person—makes insignificance as a writer pale!

While I believe strongly that we all have a story that is worth telling and writing, we are not all able (yet) to write a story that will captivate another reader. (I will not even try to tackle the issue of audience—of writing with one’s audience in mind as not all readers are part of our potential audience.) So, the fear of insignificance is realistically based in the possibility of an insignificant vision and articulation.

To cut to the chase, I would say a writer’s solution to a fear of insignificance lies in going beyond the mechanics of writing and focusing big time on her/his theme. Sometimes a writer begins writing with theme in mind and sometimes it takes a whole lot of writing to arrive at one’s theme.

The hero’s journey

It’s possible, of course, to find a theme that is insignificant also, a cliché: “Life is hard,” “Work hard if you want to win,” “Love conquers all.” Ultimately, I would say—for myself at least—that all theme worth writing about can only be found in our version of the hero’s journey. (How to find the hero’s journey? There are many ways, but one has to do with those tasks in life which you simply had to do—want to or not— that having done them leaves you with a sense of the rightness of the task. [I realize this is a cursory exposition.])

Once the writer connects with his/her hero’s journey, then the story becomes much bigger. The desire to undertake and fulfill our own individual hero’s journeys is perhaps what unites all of us, writing and reading a well articulated hero’s journey can be exciting—no matter how small the exterior actions prove to be. This sort of writing—especially in the memoir—can much more easily capture the reader’s attention and circumvent the real possibilities of insignificance.


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