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Fear of Insignificance

Is Your Memoir Silenced by the Fear of Insignificance?

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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.

From my own memoir-writing experience and from witnessing memoir writers I have coached, taught and edited, I have found it useful to work with a subcategory of fear as a writing block. This subcategory is, of course, fear of insignificance. Many of us have been silenced by the FEAR OF INSIGNIFICANCE. I have myself and I am fairly sure you have also been on occasion.

If you are writing only for family and friends, you need not fret about your story being insignificant. Your audience will appreciate your memoir. However, if you are writing for a larger audience, fear of insignificance can paralyze you.

There is a difference between fear of insignificance and fear of mediocrity.

Fear of insignificance is a close fear to mediocrity with which it sometimes confused, but clearly the two are different. Fear of mediocrity is about the writing itself—your style, the vocabulary you have used, the organization you gave to your story. The writer who is caught in fear of mediocrity is afraid of not being a good writer. Perhaps a hack or, at the very least, a keyboarder rather than a real writer!

Fear of insignificance is different. It is about the content of the writing. When a writer is afraid of insignificance, the writer is afraid of having nothing to say—or at least of having nothing significant to say, nothing of value. This writer is afraid ultimately of being insignificant as a person. A person who lives and thinks and feels at a shallow level. Insignificance as a person makes insignificance as a mediocre writer pale!

While I believe strongly that we all have a story that is worth telling and writing and that we can all learn to write more meaningfully, we are not all able right off to write a story that will captivate another person, a reader. So, the fear of insignificance is realistically based in the possibility of an insignificant vision, the sort of thinking that only an insignificant person has.

There is a solution. 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—not focusing on writing better prose. To combat fear of insignificance, a writer must focus on 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. Whatever your access, theme is at the base of writing a significant memoir

Your “hero’s journey” is at the base of understanding your theme.

The concept of the hero’s journey comes to us from Greek mythology and involves slaying of minotaurs and severing Medusa’s head. In modern psychology, the hero’s journey is less bloody as it involves doing difficult tasks with success—although what success is can be open to interpretation.

Perhaps by taking care of an autistic child, you learned about love, or by caring for a dying parent, you re-evaluated what was important in your life. These commitments led to your life’s theme and ultimately to your memoir’s theme.

It possible, of course, to find a significant theme but when expressed easily slips into insignificance, a cliché: “Life is tough,” “Work hard if you want to win,” “Love conquers all.” But, as I noted earlier, the same thoughts that can become clichés can also rise to sublime insight.

You can lift your theme from a tired iteration of a pithy saying to a deep insight, by exploring your experience, your feelings and your actions with fearless honesty. Ultimately, I would say—for myself at least—that all theme worth writing about can only be found in relation to your 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 undertake—want to or not— and which, having done them, gave you a sense of the rightness of your undertaking. Often, you undertook the hero’s journey with reluctance and dread but you sensed it was the right thing to do and you did it.

I have written elsewhere specifically about the hero’s journey. If you are interested in knowing more, you can check out both my posts and the many other writings that have been produced about the subject.

Once the writer connects with his or her hero’s journey, the story becomes much bigger. It becomes a universal story that can inspire readers. The desire to undertake our own individual hero’s journeys successfully is perhaps what unites all of us. Writing a well-articulated hero’s journey in psychologivcal terms 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.

In conclusion

Whatever you do today write a bit on your memoir.

[to see this as a YouTube video, click here.]

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