Watch out for the “Memoir Blues”!
Working on a Memoir – your own tale, or the story of your family – can tap surprising, long-buried feelings. Memories and emotions you thought you’d worked out long ago. And definitely not just the happy ones.
I know. Because it’s been happening to me. I’ve been working on a long-delayed memoir about my own family, and it’s brought up all sorts of old, old feelings. Not just love but loss. Not just chuckles but angst. Stomach-churning memories that woke me up in the night. And tears. Lots and lots of tears.
No wonder people put their unfinished memoir in a drawer and slam it. Hard!
This isn’t the fun part of memoir-writing. But it just might be the good part.
It’s the part where you get to go back and revisit each of those old memories – as an adult, with a lifetime of experience now under your belt. You get to put those feelings in perspective. You get to “reframe” the picture. It’s a tough and painful journey, but it just might be why you’re drawn to write this memoir.
So, let’s look at how you might deal with painful or unhappy feelings whenever they arise:
- Take a break from writing. Not a forever-break; but enough to let your thoughts settle. Don’t feel you have to plow through the stuff that makes your stomach churn in a single day.
- Talk it out. Find a good listener, and talk about what’s triggered those particular emotions. It doesn’t have to be a therapist, though yes, that’s an option, too.
- Deliberately re-frame your thoughts to put that painful memory in a wider perspective. As a child, you may have simply reacted. As an adult, you can open your arms to the broader context. Try looking for the positive motivations of others you may have missed. Or flip the scenario and imagine it from a 180-degree perspective. What if someone’s “scolding” was actually a sign of deep love? What if how you reacted wasn’t “weak,” but incredibly strong?
- Find the good inside the hurt. If painful memories are coming up as you write, celebrate the fact that you finally get a chance to deal with them. To talk about them. To re-frame them. To take the sting away. To realize how very strong you are, and perhaps have always been.
Wishing you peace, patience and perspective as you travel this sometimes painful memoir journey!