It’s Halloween, so what better time to talk about some things that scare us?
I’m not talking about the Overlook Hotel, or more more mildly, things that go bump in the night. I mean the fears you might have about coming along to one of my memoir writing events.
I host online and real-life writing retreats and courses. And here are some things people ask me when they send that tentative email enquiry or apologetic DM…
Who else will be there?
Are they writers?
How much have they written?
Did they study English?
Have they written more than me?
Will I fit in?
I haven’t started. Has everyone else written loads?
You get the idea! It takes a lot of courage to write a memoir. We’re embarking on a process of examining ourselves. Very few people do that in any context. We don’t know where to start and if our book will be any good when it’s finished. Many people are battling ingrained ideas about whether what we have to say has merit and if anyone will want to read it. We’re social mammals and we don’t want to be shamed or embarrassed. To varying extents, we want to fit in with the group – even if that group is made up of bold and unique memoirists.
And as well as emotional fears, we have practical ones. Some of us hated English at school. We might not have had encouraging English teachers. Or we may not have much formal education at all. And we don’t want to look stupid.
So, the first thing to say is this: If you want participate in anything I’m doing, message me and lay it on me! Tell me why you are nervous and I will allay your fears. Whether it’s because you’re tackling a sensitive subject or because you have dyslexia, I will listen and answer your questions. And when it comes to the event, I never make people do anything they are uncomfortable with. I deeply admire the bravery of memoirists and am known for creating a warm, kind and nurturing environment.
Everyone in the session may be at different stages, but everyone is finding their way. We all have our different fears and we can all learn from and be inspired by each other.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, says this: “Remember that you’ve been doing research your whole life, merely by existing. You are the only expert in your own experience – embrace this as your supreme qualification.”
She is absolutely right. You have the story, the experience and the courage to be considering doing this. I will help you take it from there.
Still feeling nervous?
Recently, two writers on my online course booked late in the evening and confessed to me later that they’d summoned the courage after a glass (or two) of wine.
Now, I’m not advocating being drunk in charge of a memoir but there’s something in that and neither of them are regretting their decision. So cheers and I’ll see you, and your memoir-to-be soon!