Writing About Your Life by Deanna R. Adams

So my writer friends and I were discussing the topics of memoirs the other day and I was saying how hard it is to be a writer. Particularly when writing the “personal” stuff because you really have to let yourself out there if you’re to write with any kind of emotional depth, which can only come with raw candor—being honest with yourself and your readers. I was telling them how I was at a party soon after my memoir collection, Confessions of a Not-So-Good Catholic Girl, came out, and, without having actually read the book, a woman, a nonwriter, commented on what she’d heard about it. “Yeah, well, I’ve done a lot of things in my day, but I’d never WRITE about it!”

    She didn’t say this meanly, just matter-of-factly.  I forced myself not to respond with, “That’s too bad.” Not meanly, just matter-of-factly.

    Because she doesn’t know what she’s missing.

    Sure, it hurts to write about those events in our lives that still sting, even just a bit. Yet, how cleansing, and rewarding, it feels when we do! This woman’s comment conveys exactly why she is not a writer and demonstrates what set us writers apart, as well as underlines our importance in the world.

    After all, if there weren’t writers to document all the “stuff” that happens to us as human beings, we’d learn nothing about, or from, history. Or from each other. We writers are not only necessary in the world, we got guts, folks. Damn straight.

    Here are a few excellent examples to emphasize my point:

From Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: “We all have a dream of telling our stories—of realizing what we think, feel, and see before we die. Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate.”

From Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Secret Life of Bees: “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”

And finally, this one, from the book Inviting the Wolf In, by Loren Niemi and Elizabeth Ellis: “As much as we need to tell the difficult story, there are those who need to hear it. For many, the fact that these topics might be spoken of, serves as a beacon of hope or reassurance that they are not alone. In a world where families suffer prejudice, economic hardship, illness, accident, and untimely death, listeners need ways to understand and acknowledge their suffering as part of the human experience, not be denied its power or the necessity of their coming to grips with it.”

    So, two years later, am I sorry for anything I revealed in my book? Not at all. I not only have fond memories of sitting many mornings at my keyboard getting the stories down, reminiscing the good— and the not-so-good—adventures, I now have a collection of emails and memories of wonderful voice messages thanking me for writing it, adding that it “made me laugh” or “made me cry” or “I could so relate!” And especially, “You made me think differently about things.”
    Wow. All that, along with a more peaceful mind. Because you see, when you write it out, you no longer possess it, hold it in. It is released to the Writer Gods, who then spread your hard-earned wisdom throughout the world.

    Some people bake pies. Some knit. Some paint . . .

    Others tell stories. Preserve histories.

    And if they do it right, make a profound difference in other people’s lives.

    Pretty cool, huh? How very lucky, and privileged, we are to be writers.

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3 Responses

  1. As writers we have our own experiences to draw on for material. My short memoir, “Traveling Companions,” was published in The Starving Writer. I, too, was frank about my experience of traveling with my then teenaged daughter. And my essay in Voices of Alzheimer’s is about how I adjusted to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease when my husband began acting in bizarre ways. I can only hope that what I wrote about how I coped helped another. Isn’t that why we share our stories to begin with?

  2. I have always used a journal to write my life and want to use it to write my memoir. I only hope it will help others as yours has.

  3. […] Writing About Your Life by Deanna R. Adams (pwarea7.wordpress.com) […]

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