Each time I sit down to write a memoir essay or work on my book I have to fight off the Critic Dragon screaming, “Who cares about your piddly life?” If you are a memoir writer, or considering writing a memoir, you may have the same Critic Dragon breathing fire at your keyboard.
Guess what? Even though your life experience may seem unique, many others are going through similar experiences and challenges. Your perspective just may help them get through it.
“But there are already so many books about (abuse, divorce, trauma, recovery—whatever).”
Remember this: No one has written about the experience the way you will. James Jones, Norman Mailer, Tim O’Brien—and scores of others have written about war, and no two books are alike. A multitude of writers have written about death and loss, but it didn’t stop Joan Dideon from writing about the topic in her unique voice in The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. I could go on, there are endless examples.
When I wrote Replacement Child, having no experience whatsoever writing memoir, I was blindsided during the writing by the revelation that I was writing about the loss of a child. It was the kernel of the story which drew the largest feedback from readers and spoke to them in a way I had not anticipated. Memoir can be surprising, even to the author.
Now, writing a new memoir, I fend off the Critic Dragon telling me I have no new perspectives on addiction and the opioid epidemic. But I continue to follow the breadcrumbs of my story and find something new around each curve in the path.
Write your story! It is more than your own.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ~Anne Lamott
“I believe that the memoir is the novel of the 21st century; it’s an amazing form that we haven’t even begun to tap…we’re just getting started figuring out what the rules are.” ~Susan Cheever
“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” ~Graham Greene
“I love all insider memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s truck-drivers or doctors. I think everybody likes to go backstage, find out what people think and what they talk about and what specialized job they have.” ~David Mamet
“I have more freedom when I write fiction, but my memoirs have had a much stronger impact on my readers. Somehow the ‘message,’ even if I am not even aware that there is one, is conveyed better in this form.” ~Isabel Allende
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” ~William Faulkner