Free Webinar (Monday, April 17): What Made Love Warrior a Best-Selling Memoir?

SIGN UP TO JOIN US for this free one-hour installment of our popular best-seller series.

Monday, April 17th, at 4pm PT | 5pm MT | 6pm CT | 7pm ET

In this hour-long free webinar, Linda Joy and Brooke be exploring memoirs that bare all—and spare no one—using Glennon Doyle Melton’s new memoir, Love Warrior, as a guide. They will address the fears that invariably come up for writers who want to write their deepest truths and expose their most intimate—and often shameful—secrets. The webinar will address the fallouts of such naked writing—and talk about how sharing your truth has a way of both leveling everything and setting you free.

During this Free Webinar You Will Learn:

  1. The hard truths—how to share them, why to share them, and what the consequences are for you, the writer, and the story if you don’t.
  2. Intentional omission. What did Glennon leave out? How did this impact the story and her readers?
  3. How to tackle hard themes, and the balance a memoir must strike when you’re sharing the intimate details of your sometimes-messy life.
  4. Whether the fallout is worth it. A look at the repercussions of writing a memoir, how to determine your tolerance for other people’s reactions, and ways to know whether the timing is right, and if you can weather the possible consequences.

CLICK HERE TO GET MORE DETAILS AND TO REGISTER! It’s FREE.

Brooke & Linda Joy welcome you!

The Psychological Journey of Memoir Writing

The thrill of our destination spurs us on

The thrill of our destination spurs us onWhen we begin a journey, we’re excited. We pack our suitcase, imagining the moments to come. The thrill of our destination courses through us, spurring us on. We begin with high hopes for what we’ll encounter.

I remember when I prepared for my trip to France not long ago how excited I was go to Paris, then Lyon and the southern mountains where Cezanne and Van Gogh used to paint. It was of course a wonderful trip—the vision of the Eiffel Tower even better than my imagination, but there were challenges—the suitcase was too heavy to lift upstairs, the Metro was stuffed with TONS of people, and I got lost dozens of times on tiny country lanes. There were moments of being exhausted, and others of being exhilarated. But the images I had when I packed my suitcase changed. The real journey was different, and it changed me.

So, it is when we write a memoir. We begin putting in our suitcase the memories, people, and events that we’re eager to celebrate and remember. Even if our story is a dark one, we have a handle on it; we’ve been journaling and we know the basics of the story. We launch into our writing eagerly, capturing images and moments, freely writing, doing research. We even feel brave enough to tell people we’re writing a book!

Then something happens. The doubts creep in, “I’m not sure what I wrote is the real truth. My sister says I made things up.” Or, “Gee, I don’t want to reveal x and y and z. It’s too personal. I don’t want people knowing all these things about me.” Or you read a bunch of other memoirs and think that you can’t write well enough, you feel that it’s really too big a job, this memoir project. You decide to put it away for a while.

There’s another scenario: You’re starting to remember things, memories you thought you’d handled, you begin to reflect on the past in a new way, and start to write about it, but you feel sad, depressed or angry. You try to put it all aside, but you can’t. The writing doesn’t work. You are stuck in the middle of your book, you feel conflicted. You put the project away.

This is all good news. I know, it doesn’t sound like good news to you. You just want to get your memoir done!  You want to brush away the doubts.

The good news is that you are in the middle of your memoir journey, and you’re doing fine. There are three major stages in writing a memoir. The first is the eager beginning, “downloading” as some people call it. Then there’s the Muddy Middle, where themes, stories, and memories begin to build into a larger story, one that you don’t have control of. The muddy middle is the biggest part of the journey, by the way.

The later stage is where you find your stride, the journey has changed you, and you are grateful for the riches it gives you. It’s not the same journey you imagined. You are different. The muddy middle becomes your teacher, your mentor. As Dr. James Pennebaker, says, “Story is a way of knowledge.” He has done hundreds of studies that show how writing helps to heal trauma and create a new story for you

Some tips for your trip:

  1. Accept that writing your memoir is a longer journey than you imagined. Be patient.
  2. Take good care of yourself on the journey. Rest, set a schedule, make a map.
  3. Allow the writing process to guide you, allow in the unwanted stories, images, and memories. They have something to teach you.
  4. Trust in your creative muse, the excitement you felt when you began your journey. Allow it to urge you forward.
  5. Invite your unconscious to help you write and remember.
  6. Know that you will write the same story over and over again, but in a new way. Know that you will find the muddy middle, that you will get stuck and lost, but keep going.
  7. You will find your way out of the muddy middle if you just keep writing!

How Do I Begin—The Most Asked Question in Memoirland

How Do I Begin—The Most Asked Question in Memoirland

How Do I Begin—The Most Asked Question in MemoirlandWhen you begin to write a memoir, you soon discover several layers to the process: there’s the emotional angst most people feel about writing about themselves, the worry about exposing yourself and your family to public scrutiny when the book is published. And there are questions about the craft of writing a story. After all, your story is so much more than what happened when, though time frames and timelines are important when writing a memoir. When confronted with these complicated questions, there can be a temptation to give up and walk away. Or you can contact a writing coach or join a class to keep going with support and discussion that help you find your way.

From having written two published memoirs—my new one, Song of the Plains, will be released in June, and with four non-published versions filed away, I know the struggle well!

I’m going to address questions about the process of memoir writing in a series of articles, each one focusing on one of the problems. The first one is about the emotional angst.

The angst people feel when they begin to write may lead to these questions:

  1. Will my story be interesting to other people?
  2. I’m afraid to start because then I’ll feel too exposed. There’s a lot in my story that no one else knows.
  3. What about my family? They won’t want me to write this story.
  4. The whole world will find out about things that will expose other people.
  5. The family will say that I’m making these things up.

First, let me tell you that I’ve been a family therapist for 38 years, and I bring to this discussion my years of work with people and knowledge of family dynamics and the challenge of revealing secrets or silence. I know how hard it is. I used to feel I’d dissolve in shame when I first wrote the truths of my life—it was a secret shame then because I didn’t know that other writers went through the same thing. I also never thought others could relate to my story—another issue that I found out most writers have. But I kept writing, alone. I kept trying to find the voice for my story and write it because it wouldn’t leave me alone!

You want to know if your story will be interesting to others, but you can’t answer that—it’s really the inner critic talking, the voice of doubt. As I said, it’s a question that every writer asks. We all wonder if we’re blabbing stuff that’s going to be boring, or too shocking, or too something, and we pull back. The inner critic is like that—it creates doubt, and it silences us.

The solution: jump in and freewrite your story. A freewrite means to start writing and go for 15 minutes without stopping—this bypasses the inner critic. Get out as much as you can. Announce to your inner critic that everyone asks those questions and right now you’re going to give yourself permission to explore your story.

Then there is the problem with family and exposure. While it’s natural for family members to be concerned about how they’re portrayed, when you begin, you are not showing your work to them. It’s important to feel free to write what’s on your mind, to write your truth without censoring. I strongly advocate not sharing your early writing with anyone except your exclusive, safe writing group and your writing coach. And don’t show your work to your family yet. If you write in private for a while, they won’t know about it, and won’t judge it or you.

Some writers have told me their family has explicitly told them not to write certain truths about the family, not to reveal certain secrets or embarrassing information. Each writer has to decide whether to step across that “permission” line or not. You need to consider the family “rules”—and whether you’re going to break them. What would the outcome be if you did? What if the revealing of certain stories presented an opportunity for healing? Sometimes there’s positive outcome when you’re ready to share your story with family. There can be fresh perspectives, and a chance for a new kind of conversation about things that have never been talked about before.

But I can’t emphasize enough that in the early stages keep your story private so you can explore your memories and your point of view freely without worrying about the feelings of other people or possible outcomes. As a family therapist, I can’t tell you how many times I’d sit in a session with a group of six or eight people and hear how each of them had a different point of view about a single event—the same event, and each believed they were right. It’s common for people to see things differently, but when you’re writing your point of view, it can feel invalidating to hear these different opinions. So it’s best to hold off until later.

As you begin writing your story, you’re trying to discover your own truths, you’re writing to explore yourself, your story, and how your past has affected you. Write your story to get it down on the page where you can read it as a witness to your former self. This is freeing and is often a healing experience.

In the next article, we’ll look at the issues around publicly writing about other people and how to handle that.

Structure: The Backbone of Your Memoir

Structure your memoir

Structure your memoirWe’re all fired up about STRUCTURE this month. Why? Because we see over and over again how important this key element is to actually executing a readable memoir. Plus, we know it’s a place where memoirists struggle, and there are some firm decisions you can make to ease your way into a structure that sings.

We invite you to take advantage of this information-packed hour: STRUCTURE: THE BACKBONE OF YOUR MEMOIR. It’s happening next Monday, November 14, at 4pm PT | 5pm MT | 6pm CT | 7pm ET. We’re going deep here—covering:

  • What structure is, why it matters, and how you can think about structure without overwhelming yourself completely—especially if you’re in the middle of writing your memoir.
  • Tools that support structure—your table of contents, turning points, and scaffolding. These are simple ways to help focus the structure of your book, building on what you already have.
  • Traditional story arcs and how to fit your memoir into them. We will discuss how the energy of a memoir moves forward—problem/conflict/situation, which finally reaches a climax, followed by resolution—and how to track your own arc.
  • Types of structures: linear, braided, associative, framed, and circular. Complete with examples of each kind.

It’s Monday: November 14, at 4pm PT | 5pm MT| 6pm CT | 7pm ET
Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers
SIGN UP HERE. 

Don’t worry if the timing doesn’t work for you. We always record our webinars. As long as you’re signed up, you’ll get the link the next day.

We’ll see you Monday!

Linda Joy & Brooke

Testimonials

Myers makes a compelling case for the power of words as a form of healing and growth.

James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. professor of psychology, The University of Texas at Austin and author, Opening Up and Writing To Heal

...the NAMW memoir classes with Linda Joy Myers are wonderful

Kathy Pooler