Memories can be healing, revealing, scary, upsetting, fun and a whole lot of emotions in-between. Every experience creates a memory in the library of your soul. When you come to write a memoir and walk into that vast room, you may not know where or how to start. Personally, I think that when you start the journey into memoir the most important thing is that you allow. What I mean by that is you allow yourself to wander through the library and enjoy the process of connecting your memories with new eyes. Also allowing whatever needs to arise in the moment.
Often I am confronted with something that triggers a memory, it seems at first disconnected to the memoir, personal story, book or blog that I am writing. And then just like that, it starts to make sense. In that sense making process, I believe that we can create a sense of freedom.
Everything starts from within. Our beliefs about something seem so deeply ingrained, yet when we explore with new eyes and open our hearts to the message that lies beneath we start to liberate ourselves from self-imposed tyranny.
Now I am not saying you will be jumping for joy when you are reminded of events. You may be happy and equally, you may cry. The important thing is that you allow, acknowledge, accept and then take some small action.
Let me give you an example.
Last night I went to a party, nothing unusual in that, it was New Year’s Eve and a time when people like to get together and see in the New Year. Of course, some don’t, preferring the peace of a roaring fire and perhaps dinner and a film.
The music played, people danced, and the DJ opened her deck so that anyone could request a personal song. There were some songs that I wanted to lose myself in, taking me back to a time when I too would have been on the floor dancing all night.
Two years ago I sustained an injury and stuff like dancing hurts and so to protect myself I don’t. But then a very curious thing happened.
Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs and Woolly Bully came on. And that was it.
Suddenly I was transported back in time to my parent’s parties. I wanted to dance. I asked a friend who wrinkled her nose at my suggestion, and then I was surprised by another friend who I’d thought wasn’t into dancing coming on to the empty dance floor with me. It was wonderful. I wasn’t at this party, I was back as a child twisting and laughing to the music.
When we sat down I told him the story of mum and dad’s parties and how this song made me feel. The conversation meandered into how I’d loved to dance and enjoyed the parties on the RAF camp where we lived. I explained how when the guys I’d danced with discovered who my dad was they freaked. I’d never really understood why. Dad was as far as we knew ‘just’ a fireman.
My tale veered off to a discovery I made last year. I had posted a picture of dad on Facebook. Someone privately messaged me about my dad being a rock ape. Firstly I had no idea what a rock ape was and secondly, I (or mum) hadn’t known he was in the RAF Regiment. When mum and I first discovered this we pondered about how little we had known about my dad. Who was this mysterious man who scared my potential suitors away and who might not have been just a fireman?
This morning when out walking this all came flooding back, only now there were other connections popping up.
So let me explain.
Today I start to edit my book Rude Awakenings. It opens with my first awakening – discovering that my then husband was and had been for all of our relationship living a double life. How little I knew about who he really was.
The song last night triggered off thoughts of my childhood and the discovery that potentially my dad was not who he seemed either. My ex-husband was not who he seemed and in my journey which I share in my book, I was looking for the ‘real’ me.
I am reminded that when I edit I must look beneath the stories and memories that make this memoir and to let whatever arises. It seems to me as we enter a new year and full moon, that this is another call from my soul to release more.
You may think you are just writing a memoir, but in effect as you work on your book you are creating a pathway to inner freedom.
For you to ponder…
We always come back to the core message. A memoir is not just a story, there is a learning point or points in every chapter, which comes back to the core message.
In Rude Awakenings I am on a journey to self-love and self-discovery, this is my books core message. However, as a writing coach, the bigger message for me is to inspire you to have the courage to write your book.
When you think about your core message as you write and edit, what else can you learn about you? Are there any fragments that you still need to let go of?
No matter how you feel about your story right now, there will always be something that pops up to remind you to take note. What are those things? Your reader will probably experience stirrings of emotions as they read – what might they be? Our experiences may be similar but how we process them is often different and we each need to find our way. Just take a moment to consider how your reader will feel as they read your book?
Writing has always been my saviour. When we step beyond the thinking mind and allow whatever needs to arise come forth then I believe we can find freedom.
Freedom comes from inside. When we allow ourselves to write without limitations, we are telling our souls that its ok for it all to be laid bare. In becoming a witness we can learn so much about who we are.
I say write for freedom and edit for your reader. What I mean is write the memories, flow through and with them. Take the time to explore and adventure with what comes up. When you come to edit, you will know what is for you and what is for your reader.
My invitation today is to ask you to reflect on yesterday. What conversations did you have, where do those thoughts take you? Use the full moon to let go of limitations around writing your memoir.
It’s a new year, a new chapter, and if you could give yourself the freedom to write your memoir, what would it be called?
People often get confused about writing memoir, autobiography, biography and personal story. In simple terms, personal story is often classified as all of them – memoir, autobiography and biography. For clarity they are:-
Unless you are famous autobiography is best left until fame and fortune have called. Although, you could write a cradle to grave tome for your family. Typically autobiographies are written about you, rather than by you, as in memoir.
Memoir is a story about you, written by you. It is a slice of your life rather than all of your life. The writer will reflect upon a time of their life and share their experiences with a conclusion of sorts. It’s also a slice of life which has historical value.
For me, though the personal story is much deeper than a memoir slice of life. This is my interpretation of the difference between memoir and personal story, rather an official one. Although, I’m not sure who decides what is official.
A personal story is a way to write about a part of your life that has enabled you to create change, expansion and transformation and is designed to inspire someone else to do something with their life. It is connected to your core message and is often used a part of your personal brand.
Work out who your ideal reader is. This may sound obvious, however, there are different things to consider when writing a memoir or personal story. Personal story will be linked to your core message and your business and therefore knowing who you want to inspire is vital. You will want to use your book to create other products and services.
You hold an important role, you have memories and experiences that need to be shared. It is by sharing your deeply emotional personal story that others can make meaning. When they know that they are not alone, they too can make meaning. Stories are the backbone of humanity and we have a responsibility to help each other to grow and the planet to heal.
All stories, memoir, autobiography, biography and personal story are all equally important. Choose the outcome you want before you start writing and get writing.
Often when you are stuck and feel blighted with the dreaded writer’s block, the best thing to do is take time out and write about something else. This is when writing prompts help to stimulate your juices.
Like all exercises, it is best not to think, but to just write.
How many I am words or statements can you write? You are NOT allowed to use NOT….
When you have written them down, try Wordle (www.wordle.net). Copy the words in and play around, print out and turn into a picture. Then frame your drawing and put it up where you can see it every day. Looking at your framed artwork, what does it tell you about who you think you are?
Write a character sketch of that person as if it were a stranger.
When you write a memoir, you need to bring your characters alive and let your reader really see inside of them and feel their personality and understand what makes them tick.
Photos are an incredibly powerful way to kick-start your memory. Photos are treasures, moments of your life captured, milestones, birthdays, happy, sad, people long gone, parties you enjoyed, trips, holidays, houses, beaches, there is so much to be captured from your photos and it is not just the picture, it is everything around the photo and as such a brilliant way to help you to piece together your life.
Pick a photo, any photo and ask yourself these questions:-
Get a recent photograph of yourself. Place the photograph in front of you now answer these questions. Looking at that person:-
It is quite fascinating about how we perceive ourselves not only through our thoughts and words but through pictures we take or draw.
You may not feel like an artist and a stick man or woman will do. Get your pencils or crayons out and start drawing yourself. The drawing can be a combination of colours, words and pictures cut from magazines. You can choose some words to describe yourself and make a piece of art around that.
Despite the fact that you weren’t aware of the day you were born, write one side of A4 about what it was like for your mother to give birth to you. Or write about another person who was at the birth. What did they see, feel, smell, touch etc.
Have fun and do let me know what you uncovered about your personal story while you were focusing on something else.