“I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.” ~ Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir
As my old writing professor used to say: “Tell the truth, but make it a good story.”
Truth is nonnegotiable in memoir.
Writing memoir, good memoir, requires going deep into your experiences and your truth.
It’s only your truth, but if you want to bend it, call it what it is–fiction.
As you craft and revise memories, be willing to question yourself–because your readers certainly will.
Deep contemplation and consideration brings intensity, meaning and depth to your memoir.
Without depth, it’s just a story to tell at happy hour.
The art of memoir is in the crafting of the behind the scenes, understanding the unspoken, and sharing insights with your readers without coming off as a know-it-all.
Memoir can be thick with the everyday dramas of life, but it need not be tedious, boring or insulting.
If the writing is strong, it can seduce the reader to turn one more page.
Rich memoir is a map to the reader, taking them on a journey that reminds them of something inside themselves or helps them imagine another life altogether.
Well-chosen memories help us better grasp where we’ve been and we’re going. They serve as mirrors. Not every memory is vital to the story, even if important to the writer.
Solid memoirs awaken readers’ own sense of direction, or at the very least, help them make way for others’ choices.
Memoir that rocks not only reveals the writer’s revelations, but shift the readers’ awareness and understanding.
To write memoir that moves people, you’ve got to allow yourself to be moved, nudged and even shoved by life. You’ve got to live it fully.
There’s no room for surface dwellers in the realm of rich memoir.
Writing of this sort requires the same time and effort other writing does.
Of course, it demands showing up on the page, but memoir writers who earn rapt attention spend time studying themselves, their stories, and their lives.
Memoir writers like Mary Karr or Glennon Doyle know themselves in a way few do.
Much of that knowledge comes from painting words on paper, but memoir is more.
It’s cohesion of memories, ideas, lessons, values and visions. It’s wisdom, not only in the words but in the character of the writer behind the words.
As a memoir writer, I’m out to expose myself—not as a flasher, but as a woman who’s put herself under the microscope, fledged through the darkness and awakened to beautiful blessings.
A memoir writer must not be afraid of the dark, or shining the light on it.
If you want to write memoir, great memoir, dive in, dig deep.
Expose the underbelly of life, but do it in the way that only you can.
Shine your light into your darkness and expose the lessons you’ve learned like a grandfather tells tales on a camping trip with the fire snapping in the night.
Make us lean in.