You DO Have A Story To Tell. Here's How To Start Writing It
Everyone has a fascinating story to tell. Perhaps you've never thought about writing yours, or perhaps you've been thinking about your memoir for years. Either way, there is a story inside of you that deserves to be told, preserved and celebrated.
I've been writing for years — magazine and newspaper articles, blogs, newsletters, marketing copy — but the recent process of writing my memoir is unlike any other writing I've done. Unlike a blog post, where I have to get to the point pretty quickly, I can take my time, and try to tell the full story.
My memoir has been my secret love affair, where I turn in the wee hours of the night when my family is asleep and I can enter another world. The memoir world is a magical mixture of memory and fantasy, practicality and ridiculousness, an alchemy of words that I find both healing and invigorating.
But before I could happily immerse myself into this magical world of words, I had to get over some major hang-ups that were seriously holding me back. I'm sharing them here in case you are facing them too, regardless of whether you are writing a memoir or simply trying to open up more, and share your truth to the world.
1. Get over thinking your story isn’t worth telling.
This is the first and most important hang-up that you must overcome, because self-doubt is more destructive to dreams than anything else, including failure. I certainly harbored this doubt myself, but then I read this quote by Toni Morrison and I realized I really had no choice: "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
If my story was already available in paperback, I would have devoured it by now. It is a story I am longing to see exist in the world, and nothing quite like it exists. Yours is the same. If you want your story to exist "out there," then you have to share it.
2. Get over worrying about offending people.
Your stories are your own, your memories are uniquely yours. Anne Lammot said it best, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Difficult experiences shape who we are as human beings, and the people who challenge us in life often become our greatest teachers. Don't let their opinions shape your future or prevent you from telling your story. They may just thank you for it later.
3. Get over thinking that you have to tell the whole story.
Your story doesn't have to start with birth and go from there. In fact, the word "memoir" is derived from memory, and yours can be any memory you feel compelled to share. The time I want to remember most of all is the past 6 months of my life — a tiny slice in my 40 years, but a time of so much personal transformation that I never want to forget how I did it.
4. Get over thinking that you have to go to a secluded cabin in the woods to sit and write for several months.
My book has been written on notes on my hand, scraps of paper and napkins, on my iPhone in parking lots, and on my iPad while exercising on the elliptical machine at the gym. Most of my ideas have come to me when I was in either the bathtub or Pilates class, and I've had to rush, sometimes dripping wet, to find a place to write them down.
Few people have the luxury of time to escape into the woods for an extended writer's retreat, but when you are immersed in writing your story, it will find a way to come out. You may find that your story will write you, instead of the other way around.
5. Get over worry about who your audience will be.
In writing, and in life generally, I suggest referring back to that Toni Morrison quote frequently. You are your first priority. And especially when it comes to sharing your story, you are doing so first and foremost for yourself.
Writing (or simply sharing) your story should be pleasurable. Although it is comforting to receive feedback from my early readers that my book is engaging, inspiring, and funny, I'm really writing it for myself, and having a grand time doing it.
There is nothing like the gratification I get from translating the noise in my head into words that blend together to tell a great story. Yet there's always uncertainty: who knows what will become of your memoir, or mine for that matter?
But that's not the point. The point is to tell our stories, because long after we are gone, they will live on.