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What’s your take on telling the truth?

The Memoir Cafe is a forum in which members of My Memoir Education, the free basic membership in The Memoir Network, post questions and receive replies.

One discussion that I want to bring to your attention is about “telling the truth that hurts” in a memoir. While this may seem to have an easy resolution—”What’s the problem! Just tell the truth!”—it often is not that easy in practice. The thread was recently added to. David had a problem writing about his blended family—I hope you agree with my suggestions below for telling the truth.

You do not have to write anyone else’s version of your story. Often people who fear the reactions of others are surprised at how therapeutic it is to write the story honestly and then how acceptable/accepted the story can be by others who had seemed intimidating.

Here are several practical writing suggestions:

  • You could start writing the details of family house and living conditions. Be as detailed as possible. Details bring back memories. Details give access to feelings.
  • Be proactive in responding to your negative thoughts. E.g.: “These memories are too hard to write” can become “I can write these memories.”
  • Write in a group so that you are receiving feedback on your stories. Often people find that a group—whether a single coach or 10 people in a library writing group or a Memoir Network tele-class—helps to create perspective to the story.
  • When you write negative memories, stay with the details. Avoid value words like “sneaky” or “cruel.” Instead “show and not tell” is the rule. “Show” will make for a more believable story.

Let us know on the forum or below if the above comment was appropriate and useful!

Here follows the lead to the whole thread. I encourage you to follow the link, read the stories and comments and share your views with those who have posted on “telling the truth that hurts” thread (You will need to be logged in to read the forum. Not a member? Become one for free.) Here’s how I launched the discussion:

When you write a memoir, it is crucial to never stop asking yourself: what do I really want to write?

Your memoir is not likely to earn you the big bucks that will permit you to quit your day job so… write deeply true prose, prose that almost hurts you to write but that you know anything else is a waste of your precious life energy. Tell us about what it’s like for you to write the truth that hurts about your life.

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