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Writing Feelings into Your Memoir

How to write feelings into your memoir is a rather important topic.

Recently on the Forum, David wrote about not accessing the feeling side of his memories, of writing a memoir that, if I am understanding him right, was all details and facts.

Below is my response which can serve as a stand alone article, but I hope you will go to the Forum and read the thread and even write a note to David about what your take is on his situation.

Or if you prefer, leave a comment below about your thoughts about writing feelings into your memoir.

Here are some of my suggestions for accessing more feeling:

~ If I were coaching you I would frequently ask you: “How did that feel?” or “How does that make you feel now to remember that?” It may be that you are out of the habit of reflecting on your feelings. It may also be that you learned not to pay attention to your feelings—at least certain of them—and now have to relearn. So, all the time be asking yourself  “How did that feel?” or “How does that make you feel now to remember that?”

~You can take a scene from your life and write it up as fiction [This is an exercise and the resulting writing will not be part of your memoir. I am not suggesting you ficitonalize your memoir only that you use a fiction technique to access your feelings.] Put feelings into your characters. Make the feelings up. Make the characters respond in a way that you wish you or they had responded. Once, you feel the feelings that come up, it is not important to finish the story. The uncovering of the feelings is important. But, if you like the story, by all means finish it. What happens here is that the unconscious is “tricked” into releasing memories.

~ Do visualizations. Project yourself back at the time of a negative experience and relive it. Remind your younger self that you are there with him as an adult. Let yourself experience the feelings that come up. Remind the boy that he is safe. Again the unconscious is “ricked.”

~In using details as I suggested you do, I do not mean a plethora of details—for instance, everything that might have been in the kitchen when you were 14. I do not mean for you to choose details as a social historian might, or a museologist. I mean for you to use details that conjure feelings for the reader. Your step-father’s character, for instance needs to be portrayed in the details you select to describe his actions or the setting the reader will find him in.

Keep writing.

You will find that over time you will find writign feelings into your memoir to be easier. These can be incorporated over time as you do second and third drafts. Think of memoir as layered writing which can be added to.
When you are ready send me an excerpt for the blog.

To read the thread with David’s note and my whole response…

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