I blogged recently about taking (not making) time to write, by attaching the habit of writing to another habit you already have. Good ones and bad ones (!) are fine. You just need to link the habit you want to have to the one you already have. This I am learning from reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.
I’ve also written about your writing space, how it might be imperfect (like mine) but that’s okay. You can still write in it.
But now I want to talk about why it can be good, and by good, I mean resulting in a more authentic memoir and healing creative experience, if you take your time writing the thing.
Yes. Ideally, I want you to take your time.
That might seem counter-intuitive. You might think that my advice to get on with it means that I believe speed is of the essence. But what I mean is that memoir writing involves a level of reflection that few people undertake in their whole lives. Reflection takes time. So pause as you go along if you feel the need, and certainly (definitely) between drafts.
A couple of years ago I started working with a woman who had been through a lot of neglect and abuse, in her childhood and during her first major relationship. Hers was never a revenge memoir, which I advise against. But she felt justifiably angry with a lot of people and had been working through this with therapy. She wanted to write about her healing process. Healing is not always linear as you may know. Inner peace can be a slippery thing and can come and go, depending what life throws at us.
We’re on the fourth draft of her memoir now and last time we met, she wanted various things taken out of the book. Things she had written about other people and their behaviour that she no longer felt. She didn’t want to be petty or vindictive, she said. We chatted about how she felt so much different now from when we started writing together and how the writing and reflecting had been a huge part of that. How each draft had been another step forward in her understanding and evolution. How it had been therapeutic.
If she had rushed the writing and publication, she’d have been stuck forever with a version that did have its petty and vindictive moments. And that can be fine. But by having taken her time, she has been able to release some of her anger and has created something that is a true representation of who she is today.
One of my least favourite pieces of advice has to be, “Let it go!”
“Oh, I should let it go? I never thought of that! Because it’s that easy! “
So I’m not saying that writing memoir helps you let stuff go. But it can bring a sense of release. Physically it’s all out of your head and on paper, and mentally too, because you’ve gained new perspective.
So take your time.
Feel your feelings, write them down, read them, ponder.
Create the memoir you really want to write
And let your memoir re-create you.