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3 Things I Learned About Becoming 'Unstuck' When Writing My Memoir

05/05/2014 01:50 pm ET | Updated Jul 05, 2014
  • Dorit Sasson Memoirist, story coach, radio show host and creator of Giving Voice to Your Story - www.GivingVoicetotheVoicelessBook.com

The genre of memoir writing is exploding more than ever before. More writers are jumping at the opportunity to tell their life story and want to cash in on what may be the next blockbuster. However, writing one's life story is not as easy as it looks. Because the writer is so close to the story, it's easy to get stuck in one's head. Add the memories and the sabotaging inner critic, and it's easy for a writer to suddenly become derailed from the original goal of finishing a memoir.

When starting on my memoir, I experienced quite a bit of "highs" and "lows." Often I questioned my motivations and asked myself, "who's going to be so interested in reading my story and why?" The inner critic got in the way so much that I had to take it for a nice long walk. I decided I had no choice but to squash those irritating little critters once and forever. But that wouldn't solve the problem forever. Here's what I did to help stay in the "unstuck zone" and increase my productivity.

1. I joined a supportive writing group that specializes in memoir writing. I cannot begin to tell you how important a writing group is for the development of any writer but incredibly important for a writer who's feeling vulnerable and lonely while writing past events that tear him/her up. A good writer's group will support you through the "lows" and applaud you through the "highs." Having a good writer's group provides weekly check-ins and accountability with a writing buddy. Also, there's so much that you'll need to emotionally process, that a writer's group can also provide direction and guidance as you're discovering the best way to tell your story.

2. I blogged about my memoir. Now I know what you might be thinking. How the heck am I going to blog my memoir when I'm struggling to just write the thing? Just for the record, some memoir writers starting out may not feel comfortable blogging because they aren't ready to share parts of their story with a larger audience, and that's alright. But traditional publishers these days want to see a strong online presence, and blogging's the way in.

Contrary to what some memoirists may think, there's no shame in blogging about your memoir let alone writing it. As Brene Brown states, "owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy--the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."
As a blogger, you'll have the chance to develop more self-confidence in reaching out to your target online reader. Plus, blogging is great for building a following which you'll need when you'll want to promote your book.

3. I learned the importance of writing scenes for memoir writing. Essentially, a memoir is a collection of "scenes" that when put together, tell a larger story along with themes. Showing what happens to a character is important for grounding the reader. Scenes in memoir thrive on the dialogue of the inner and outer narrator which helps ground defining moments. You and I both know that when we read a scene that balances all these elements, we are in essence connecting to a character and his/her journey that will ultimately lead to transformation.
With the first draft of my memoir, I couldn't help myself and dove into scene after scene but with the help of a writing coach, it became clearer to me that my inner narrator's thoughts and feelings needed to be expressed in order to balance what was happening to me at the time. It was up to me to decide how vulnerable (or not) I really wanted my character to be.

There are literary agents out there who snub memoir writing and some have even gone so far as to say that memoir is "ME-Moir." Please do NOT buy into this cynical and very ridiculous point of view. People want to read memoir for story's sake. They want to read a story of transformation - the hero's journey. And yes, they want to read your memoir. We need to recognize the value of stories and create a safe, sacred and creative space for those who do want to give voice to their stories. The ripple will cast itself over for future generations to come.

Based on my own writing and learning, a good memoir is about sharing and resonance, as well as showing vulnerability and breaking the barriers. And there's nothing wrong or self-centered about that.

Now, if you're just starting to get your story OUT there, then you'll want to follow a step-by-step system that feels easy and authentic to you. Start with downloading the FREE e-workbook, "Three Steps to Writing a Kick-Ass About page" located in the upper right hand corner of the Giving a Voice to Your Story site..