Writing Your Memoir by HandI just read a post about an interesting book— Your Handwriting Can Change Your Life by Vimala Rodgers.

The author says that our handwriting reveals many things about us, reflecting attitudes that we may be unaware of, and that it charts our shifting moods and feelings.

Have any of you noticed how your handwriting changes in different moods? Over the years I have observed variations in my writing, and have wondered about the meaning of it. My handwriting has curves when I’m feeling looser and more flexible, and when I need structure, the letters I form are more upright. Makes sense, doesn’t it? But here’s the question that so many memoir writers ask, and it’s a good one: “should I write my memoir with a pen and paper or at the computer?”

I prefer to take the positive point of view that everyone needs to find their own best way to write, but I do encourage those who want to get into their emotions more fully to write by hand. I wrote my entire memoir by hand in spiral bound notebooks or on yellow lined paper—I love the practical approach so I don’t feel I’m “wasting” pretty paper and journals. I scrawled at will, I wrote experimentally, trying new things that the computer keyboard wouldn’t have allowed to emerge in the same way. Sometimes, as I learned to type more quickly, I wrote on the computer, but it tended to be dry, with less emotion. I would return to the page to elicit subtlety and layers of feelings. I just could not access the deeper emotions on the computer.

Writing a memoir is like picking your way across an ice-bound lake to the other side; it is a journey into the dark forest of soul and family, with side road beckoning us that we didn’t know we would take. Writing a memoir is not for the faint of heart. It requires courage and a deep connection to who we are and where we came from. It requires that we listen to ourselves with infinite care, thrumming the strings of our hearts, listening to new tones.

When I first began writing memoir, I thought that because I knew the story—I knew what happened, and to whom, I knew the plot, I believed that I was simply capturing what I already knew. But after a while, I came to understand that though I knew the basics, how I wrote about it—the language, sentences, paragraphs, the flow—was all new to me. I had to give up even thinking I knew the plot because as I wrote, I discovered new directions and was enticed to explore them. All through writing Don’t Call Me Mother, I was working on healing the wounds of the past three generations as they had been lived by the women whom I loved. I came to realize they were in great pain and confusion, that they were truly doing the best they could do. It was through writing story and scene, one by one, scrawled on the page in whatever handwriting the mood brought me that day, that I freed myself from the binds of past wounds. Seeing the beauty of my family as I had loved them written on the page and being able to write freely about the pain and confusion I had felt allowed me to find the heart of myself and to find forgiveness for them.

Suggestions to memoir writers:

* Write your story in a journal or on ordinary paper so your inner critic doesn’t have a chance to complain about wasting that pretty journal on such terrible stories.
* The more you write, the more your unconscious is invited to release its secrets—hidden stories, memories, and insights come out when you create the opportunity regularly.
* Select a place and time where you will write at least once a week, three times a week is better. The more you write, the more you will keep writing. Each story, each writing session seeds more ideas and helps you to keep thinking of your stories.
* If you have a timeline of your life, or a timeline of your memoir, it will be easier for you to focus in on a particular scene and put yourself in that place and time when you sit down with your notebook. Make lists of the stories you feel are the most important ones for your memoir, then write them one by one. Check them off when you are done, and go on to the next one.