To tell the truth in a memoir may seem simple, but in practice it is almost never so.
It is first of all not clear what the truth may be: yours or someone else’s? Then also, the truth may be submerged beneath layers of pain.
When I suggest you must tell the truth, don’t mean the easy truth like “I had a brother and a sister,” but the hard truth that makes you flinch, a truth like “my mother disliked her kids—especially me” or “I was abused as a child.”
I think you know what your hard truth is. But if you don’t, think about those aspects of your life you don’t particularly feel like sharing. That is, those are hard to share, but when you tell the truth of those memories, you are likely to feel so much better later and to have produced a much better memoir.
When you tell the truth, you may find yourself immersed in pain. Perhaps you need to read the posts of dealing with pain in memoir writing. I do not believe that you need to hurt yourself when you tell the truth but you must learn to own your life experience and to be honest about it.
What I have found in my workshops is that other writers almost always pick up when a writer has decided not to tell the truth and writes inaccuracies into a text. It somehow stands out so—don’t do it. You won’t get away with it with the reader.
And you—you won’t be satisfied in the end with the memoir you have written.
When writing a memoir or family history, you will inevitably come across bits of information that you want to include, but which you cannot verify…
I urge all readers to commit to telling the truth—100% of it—in their memoir. It’s the only way you will get to the truth—and as they say, the telling the truth will set you free.
Many writers suffer from writer’s block, yet few understand—and much less resolve—its possible causes. There are a number of reasons that contribute to difficulty—especially blockage—in writing. In memoir writing, the infamous “writer’s block” can result from avoidance—that is, you don’t want to deal with uncomfortable material and so you “block.”
“If you call a book a memoir, the understanding is that to the best of your knowledge the facts, and what can be verifiable, are the truth. …”