In every one of my classes for writers, there are always a few writers who are doing deep healing work and, along the way, discover that they feel called to write a memoir. However, immediately after this, self-doubt kicks in and the writer questions if they really should be spending their time trying to write a memoir, or if their time would be better spent on some other writing project.
I’ve also worked with many people who have tried to write their memoir, but never finished it, or could never quite get the motivation to start it. This is extremely common for writers who are embarking on writing a first memoir. The problem is that every writer who goes through it tends to feel very isolated and has no idea their struggle is not just about them, but is actually a relatively natural part of the process for first-time memoir writers.
Usually, first-time memoir writers are dealing with a lot of fear around the process. They’re afraid that:
Six years ago, I was a writer who hadn’t published anything with an idea that was nagging at me to turn it into a book. I was also a struggling writing coach, trying to fit coaching in between my day job, my long commute, and an infant son. I was tired, distracted, stressed, and overwhelmed.
But I also felt the calling to follow this idea that wouldn’t leave me alone.
I wanted to write a self-help book.
I wanted to write a self-help book for a lot of reasons, not the least important of which was the fact that self-help books had helped me through some of the darkest times in my life. And even though I had made it through those dark times into greener pastures, I still read a lot of self-help books. I genuinely enjoyed the genre and I thought it would be fun to try my hand at it.
But I had no idea what I was doing.
And so, I ran into a lot of roadblocks along the way.
Out of everything I wished I’d known before I started writing a self-help book, there are 3 big things that would have made all the difference for me. I’m sharing them here in the hopes that they’ll help you and you won’t get stuck at an impasse for as long as I did at times.
I started a new novel last week. I had been thinking about the story for at least two months. The characters kept popping into my mind at all hours of the day. I could see them so clearly. I felt so connected to them. I thought about them while I was driving, while I was in the shower, effortlessly seeing them in vivid scenes, some of which even brought tears to my eyes.
Then I sat down and wrote the first chapter.
It was awful.
I was in the middle of writing a steamy sex scene toward the end of my novel and writing so fast my hand was cramping up. My two main characters were finally hooking up and the chemistry was sizzling. But then…I got stuck. I had to describe something that was, ahem, an intimate body part in a somewhat contorted position and I just didn’t have the words. I paused and started to think, but as I was thinking I could feel myself losing the magic of momentum. So, I pushed on as best I could, using horrible clumsy words that weren’t right at all, but knowing I needed to place priority on pinning down the emotions in the moment. I could come back later and fix everything else up.
Yesterday I typed those two little words every writer dreams of when we’re in the middle of a WIP…The End. I finally finished the novel I’ve been feverishly working on for the past seven months. For me, seven months is a record-breaking length of time to write a novel, but with this one, I just couldn’t help it. It was one of those novels that forced me to drop everything and write it, whether I wanted to or not.
You would think I would feel happy. You would think I would be out celebrating. But, I feel the exact opposite. Now that the book is out of me (the sloppy first draft anyway) and I know the entire story of my characters, I kind of feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest.