Whether as a coach or as an editor, when I have engaged with writers, I have often found similar presenting problems—
- I don’t have time,
- I never had a good grammar education,
- I have so many stories to tell I don’t know which one to start with.
Frequently, these “reasons” writers present for not writing are symptoms of underlying issues. They tell me the writer has probably gotten stuck avoiding the inner work of writing.
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Let’s look at what “outer work” is first.
Outer work is about techniques and schedules. It’s about such external features as the space you write in and the software you use. It’s also about some internal, but not personal, things like your knowledge of grammar and spelling, of prose styling. Outer work is largely objective. It’s not particularly about you. It’s about something outside of you that you would do well to acquire to improve your writing.
Writers get it that they need to learn to write clearer prose or do more research for their story. What they don’t get is that writing a memoir requires they rid themselves of the deep inhibitions that are holding them back from writing. They need to do the inner work.
What is this “inner work?”
Inner work is all about feelings, and how you think of yourself as a writer and about the importance of writing for yourself and for your audience. It includes such thoughts and feelings as:
- Who will read my memoir? When this question is answered negatively (“No one!”), the writer has inner work to do. Negative answers result from a lack of confidence, a belief that one does not have a story to tell that will be of interest to others. (See Memoir Education guide “Who Will Read My Book?” in Member Resources, 2. Motivational e-Course, third download.)
- Who am I to write a memoir? This is also a self-concept issue, and it is one that requires “permission granting.” Some people can give themselves permission to tell their truth, but others persist in withholding permission, calling their refusal—their fear really—something like “being realistic.” Without a sense of your authority to write your story, you will be stymied and eventually give up. Your writing goal will be reduced to your sense of self. A coach can work with this issue by reflecting another self you would do well to acknowledge. You need to grow your sense of self to match your writing goal.
- Isn’t this navel gazing? This excuse is probably related to the one’s lack of comfort with revealing one’s self. The memoir you will write can prove interesting and meaningful, but you will have to adjust your privacy level to allow yourself to tell your story to an audience.
- I am not a good writer. Everybody is not good at something at some point. Why hold on to that definition of yourself? Isn’t “I am becoming a better and better writer” a more creative and empowering affirmation to be telling yourself?
How to tackle the inner work
At the Memoir Network, we operate on an assumption that the best writing comes “from the inside out.”
Affirmations, because the work “from the inside out,” are a powerful and effective vehicle to change your self-concept.
We do affirmations all the time. When you say, “I’m such a klutz!” you are making an affirmation and are reinforcing your self-concept as a klutz. When you say, “I am graceful and capable,” you are reinforcing another self-concept—one that will work for you in your life instead of getting in the way.
Make a list (in writing) of all your fears concerning writing and self-expression and turn them into positive affirmations.
- “I don’t know how to write” can become “I write clear and forceful prose.”
- “My writing is boring” can become “My writing is interesting and entertaining.”
- “Who am I to tell this story?” can become “I have the right to tell my story and I am telling it well today.”Listen to your fears and doubts and put-downs and reformulate them in your mind in the positive. You will also find that writing regularly and in some quantity will help you to feel better about yourself as a writer—and, yes, as a person.Affirmations are not about the present truth. They are about the future truth. Believe in yourself enough to belief in your future truth.