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Recently, someone asked me what are the biggest barriers memoir writers face to being prolific. The following three came to mind right away. Below, I write about them and offer suggestions for eliminating these impediments to staying in the writing conversation.
1. Don’t hold out for a perfect memoir.
Writers often put off writing a good memoir in favor of struggling unsuccessfully forever to create a perfect one. This is insidious because no one says they are putting off writing a good memoir in favor of a perfect one. Instead they say, “I want my story to be meaningful” or “I want to be sure I have something to say” or “I don’t want to bore my readers.”
For sure, no one wants a boring memoir or a meaningless one. Most writers I’ve worked with do have it in them to turn out a memoir that can appeal to its audience. It may not be a perfect memoir but it can be a good one. Keep in mind that perfect is the enemy of good.
Remedy: Tell yourself every day, “I am writing the best memoir I can. It need not be perfect to be worth my time to write and my audience‘s time to read.”
2. Don’t shrink from the difficulty of writing a memoir.
Producing a 200-page book is, of course, not easy. But neither is raising kids or going to work every day. No one said it was going to be easy or fun every time you sit down. Writing a memoir is hard work but the results—like keeping your commitment to raising a family through all the difficulties—are worth it.
One mindset that is a deal breaker when it comes to writing a memoir is dwelling with how long it will take you to write the whole book and how many things you will have to struggle with to get the book completed. Instead of this terrible doom and gloom, commit to writing one day’s worth of memoir at a time. Don’t let the big picture defeat you.
Remedy: Tell yourself every time you sit down to write that you are writing only a small part of the book. You can write two to three pages on any given day. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s hard.
3. Don’t work alone.
Too many writers work without support to maintain their writing effort—month after discouraging month. Writing can be lonely work. The isolation can sap your energy. As you spend more and more time alone with yourself, you begin to doubt what you are doing, you begin to fall into perfectionism, you tell yourself it is too hard. You decide go quit.
Find support to keep you going. This can be a sibling or friend who is helping you with research, a writing group that meets at the library regularly, (be sure members can provide critical help not just the sort that never gets beyond, “That’s nice!”), a writing class where your writing can receive constructive criticism, or memoir writing coach.
Remedy: Tell yourself that by the end of this month, you will have set up the support you need to persevere with writing this year.
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