May 18 Memoir Teleseminar–Learn about Journaling with Amber Lea Starfire

11 AM PST; 12 MST; 1 CST; 2 EST

If you keep a journal, you are already aware of the powerful benefits of a journaling practice—catharsis, emotional healing, clarity, stress reduction, and enhanced creativity, to name a few. But are you aware of the many ways you can use journaling techniques to enhance your memoir writing practice?

Develop character, setting, and reflection

You can use a variety of journaling techniques and prompts for developing different aspects of your memoir, exploring images, concepts, characters, places, and themes—all without the pressure of trying to write an actual scene or story.

For example, to deepen character, you can write a letter to yourself from one of your memoir’s characters explaining an event from her point of view. You might even use that person’s narrative voice to describe your appearance and character as she might have seen you. Putting yourself in someone else’s place is a great way to bring out that person’s voice in your writing. It can also help create a more rounded portrayal of someone.

To recreate place (setting), you can draw maps, make associative word lists, write about how a particular place made you feel, what it contained, and what you loved and hated most about it. You can use your journal to poke into all the nooks and crannies of a place, until you have control over its essence and meaning in your life.

Additionally, because your journal is a place your inner critic is not welcome, she (or he) is forced to sit outside waiting for you to return. Freed from your inner critic, all kinds of insights and forms of expression are possible!

Uncover Your Story

Past journals are like goldmines in which the precious details of memory lie buried and waiting for excavation. But, once you’ve dug up the entries you need for your memoir, what then? Those words and phrases, diamonds in the rough, are not useful without the cleaning, cutting, and polishing that will make them shine. You’ll need to work to uncover the truths hidden within your original, unpolished entries—truths that lie beneath the surface of your writing and reveal the heart of your story. How rough those memory jewels are depends on what and how much you included when you created those entries.

If you’re lucky, and you’ve been a journal writer for some time, your past journal entries outline major events with concrete, sensory details, bits of setting and dialogue, and your emotional responses. But even if you didn’t write fill in all those details, your journal entries contain the kernels of your memories, and they will energize your memoir-writing process. By combining what you’ve written with what you remember, you’ll arrive at a deeper, richer story. Listening to what your story wants to tell you is the real work of memoir writing. 

There are many ways to uncover those precious gems. To name just a few, you can:

  • Find past entries with physical, emotional, or contextual details surrounding particular events or memories.
  • Highlight bits of prose, metaphor, and other tidbits as you read past entries, then transcribe those excerpts onto the computer, with additional notes, reflection, and any images the writing evokes.
  • Look for intense and/or honest emotional reactions to events. Sometimes it’s hard to remember how you felt about something at the time—your journal remembers for you.

Enrich Your Writing Practice

Journaling is so much more than a way to record daily events and process feelings. It’s a sacred space within which you can be vulnerable and open and safe, a place to discover and develop vital aspects of your story. Journaling with intention will enrich all facets of your writing practice, as well as help you find the soul of your memoir.