Revealing the Inner You in Writing Memoirs by Denis Ledoux
You are interested in writing memoirs, but you resist getting too personal, going in too deep.
Your guarded secrets that you wanted to have your own business one day or your hope that your father would apologize eventually for his denigration of you—this has happened and yet it has had great impact on you. Your even deeper secrets—the sexual orientation that you dared not reveal or your negative self-concept—surely this can’t be the subject of a memoir. How would you live this down? Isn’t it better to stick with the facts and dates? And aren’t these inner realities too personal to impose on others?
1) THE MORE PERSONAL YOUR MEMOIR THE MORE UNIVERSAL IT IS. The personal, honestly described, is often the most universal. If there is a place where it is important to acknowledge, “This is who I really was and who I really am,” where you need share with others the hero’s journey you have undertaken —successful or not, it is in your book of lifestories. Here, the inner changes, the emotional turmoil, the psychological victories, defeats and challenges that have made you the person you are today will speak to your readers. Without this sort of personal material, your memoir will be less universal, less interesting—for you to write and for others to read.
2) THE PERSONAL MEMOIR, THE ONE THAT RECORDS INNER EXPERIENCE, CREATES PEACE FOR THE WRITER. While writing memoirs, you will gain understanding and appreciation for the journey you have taken; you will appreciate the uniqueness of your responses to people, events and developments. So many people have said to me, “Writing my story has helped me to accept what was.” Others have commented on how it is like therapy. And being at peace you will not need to hide the experience that will make your story appealing.
3) YOUR STORY WELL TOLD STIMULATES PERSONAL GROWTH. If you have not always lived your life wisely, what better time than now to come to terms with that? Life writing offers you the chance to examine patterns of behavior and attitudes that shaped your past and to explore how to alter these as you go about being yourself in the present. Fresh insights gained from writing memoirs will infuse your awareness. Your writing—the act itself and the resulting stories—will allow you to see and utilize new ways of being that serve not just survival but becoming fully yourself. It’s time to stop living other people’s dreams and to explore yours. This desire for fulfillment is a universal one, and your reader will find self-recognition in reading your experience.
4) YOUR STORY WILL MENTOR YOUR AUDIENCE. I believe one of the reasons readers pick up a memoir is in order to be mentored. Your readers will be guided by your personal tale as you point out pitfalls and opportunities from your life experience. By not holding back in revealing the whole of your story—the inner as well as the outer story, you reassure and guide readers as they make their own ways through life. By being brave enough to write your inner truth, you mentor your audience. The dates and facts alone aren’t enough to do that.
5) YOUR COURAGEOUS EXAMPLE WILL EMBOLDEN FUTURE GENERATIONS. Your written inner story portrays the particulars of being the person you are and it will survive you. Your understanding of your inner life will help your descendants and future readers to appreciate their own existence. Don’t shortchange yourself and your family with a memoir that is just a chronology of dates and facts. There is so much more that posterity deserves, and needs, to know!
6) EVEN IF YOUR SECRETS REMAIN SECRETS FROM US, WRITING MEMOIRS HAS PROBABLY ALREADY WORKED ITS MAGIC ON YOU. Remember: it’s okay to write about your pain and your anguish, your foolishness and inadequacies, and to decide not to publish this story of your inner life for anyone to read! You don’t have to share what you write unless you want to. Once you have benefited from the insights you’ve gained, you can destroy any piece of writing you wish to destroy or store it where only you will see it. You are the first audience for your book—and that’s a very important audience. So even if you do not publish your story for others, you have written it for a very important person—you. But, that said, you may want to think again about keeping your story private.
7) YOUR INSIGHTS, EVEN NOT SHARED, ARE ESSENTIAL TO DISCOVER YOUR THEME. Insights whether you publish them or not, are influencers of theme and are part of your story—even if only behind the scene. Because you have had an insight you will write differently from then on. The inner life, and its articulation, is always an influencer.
The journey of exploration, which is the memoir, must necessarily go into the inner self. This journey is as old as the human race. Writing your story is not vulgar or self-important and it is admittedly not easy. Rather, it is a commitment you make to your true self and a gift of understanding, guidance and reassurance you give to those who come after you.
You can succeed at writing memoirs that are interesting. Just follow a few guidelines to help you succeed‑and don’t forget to include your inner life.
Author and educator Denis Ledoux, has been helping writers and memoir professionals since 1988. His book Turning Memories Into Memoirs helps people write their personal stories. His work has been cited in Time Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Booklist and other like publications. He continues to provide ghostwriting, editing and memoir writing services. His website is: http://TheMemoirNetwork.com an online source for memoir writing tools.
Resources: “The Memory List Question Book”, “Working Through Writer’s Block” and “Turning Memories Into Memoirs” by Denis Ledoux, titles available at www.TheMemoirNetwork.com