Lies That Sabotage Memoir Writers

memoir mindset memoirs Jan 11, 2024
Lies That Sabotage Memoir Writers

I was sitting at a picnic table, eating food cart pierogies, minding my own business. I wasn’t even thinking about my memoir. Suddenly, a thought intruded out of nowhere: What if people don’t think the trauma I write about in my memoir is that big of a deal?

I put my fork down. That’s it—the thing that’s got me second-guessing whether I’m ready to put my memoir out into the world. I’m scared. Scared of people thinking I’m making too much out of nothing. Scared they’ll think I’m dumb or over-dramatic for sharing things that aren’t that big of a deal, especially since people have suffered far worse than the stories I share in my memoir.


Diminish and Dismiss

This line of thoughtminimizing my pain and comparing it to othersis a well-worn fear tactic. Ironically, my impulse to diminish the significance of my story and dismiss its value is the same behavior that shows up like a bright red thread throughout my actual life. 

Diminish and dismiss is how I was raised to cope with emotion. If you can reduce the significance of an experience by telling yourself it could be worse (someone always has it harder than you), you remove any justifiable reason for making a big deal out of it. And if your experiences in life aren’t that big of a deal, there’s certainly no need to write about them. 


Resisting the Lie

This is a fantastic tactic for sabotaging someone from writing a memoir. It’s also a big lie.

Every human endures all kinds of events, experiences, and emotions. The circumstances of a person’s story aren’t what make it valid to tell or useful for others to read. You don’t need a sensational story to gain permission to write a memoir. What you need is courage to tell the truth about your life and the ways you were affected by the things that happened.

Instead of diminishing the meaning of experiences you’ve endured, memoir invites you to name them and acknowledge the ways they’ve affected you. Instead of dismissing their impact, memoir lets you say what is true for you and invite others to consider your perspective.


The Power of Memoir

The power of memoir doesn’t come from the bigness of a person’s life events or experiences. Our stories are powerful because they speak to the universal themes of what it is to be human. When we tell the truth about what we’ve lived through, we offer a way for others to reflect on their own experiences. Memoir is an invitation to share our humanity; to be transformed with and by others through the power of personal storytelling.

So if you’re wrestling with fear about writing your memoir, rest assured, you are not alone. Fear is doing its job to protect you. Fear wants you to stay safe and secure. Fear doesn’t want you to tell your story.

But as Elizabeth Gilbert says, fear can come on the road trip and have a voice about the creative work you're doing. But it is absolutely forbidden to drive. 

What fear is making the most noise in your head as you work on your memoir? What do you think it’s trying to tell you? 

My story matters, and so does yours. What do you say we just keep driving.


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