In preparing a speech and workshop for a group of writers on memoirs, I thought about how the threads of our past continue to have an influence on everything we do. Those threads are the many stories that make up our lives.
There are many stories that need to be told – stories that only you can tell. While we may live through similar times, everyone experiences those times differently and each of us will have a different interpretation of what occurred.
There will be funny stories and stories that break your heart, but all have an important message to share.
They tell us we can endure hard times and gain something positive from even the worst of situations; there is hope for the future.
It’s not only the stories we tell other people, but the stories we tell ourselves. We constantly relive what happens in some way.
Does your story include hope and grace and some redeeming qualities?
Within the worst of situations, we find elements of bravery, compassion, sacrifice, understanding, and even humor.
Memoirs – Our Special Stories
A memoir is a slice of life, a story within the story of our lives. They are highly personal and we may find them difficult to write because we are asked to go beyond the recall of events. In our narrative, we identify our weaknesses and shortcomings as well as our strengths and triumphs which make us and our story human, relatable, credible and engaging.
Within memoirs, there is a theme – a subject or distinct and unifying idea or principle. You can write about your childhood, the places you have visited, a funny event, giving a speech, anything. The people you share your narrative with want to experience something vivid and a story that will shine a light on their own experiences or lives.
A memoir shows how much we all have in common. It doesn’t have to be dramatic to be of interest. We want to come away understanding, however subtle, what it means to be human.
Writing is both powerful and therapeutic. It helps us re-examine events objectively and coherently, and come to terms with life-altering changes. It gives us the opportunity to grieve old losses, heal old wounds and put to rest difficult memories.
Your Slice of Life
You may not consider yourself a writer, but you do tell stories. Imagine you are writing about things that have happened in your life. This is a fun exercise anyone can do.
- Take a piece of paper and write down some of the events that have happened over time, events that had some influence or made a difference in some way.
- Beside each event, write why this had importance. Maybe it is a crazy event that enabled you to see the humor in the absurdity of what happened. Maybe it reminded you of how we can persevere and survive even in the toughest of times.
- Pick one event and write a story about it.
Writing gives voice to what we have experienced.
Be honest. Don’t skip over the tough parts. We need to know the facts as we identified them along with the emotions we felt. How did events affect us both in the short term and long term? Don’t omit the questions, struggles, and doubts you had about life, others, God and yourself.
It is in the struggles where we gain humility, insight and become better people. That does not reflect weakness – but a desire to be honest and genuine.
Clarity comes as we begin to tell our story in some way and helps to coherently piece together our experiences, and re-frame the ending. Expanding our understanding of our life experiences helps us to come to terms with difficult times.
As you write, think about the strengths and resilience and determination you have gained over time. We tend to forget what it takes to go through tough times. Whether you share your story with others or not, in the writing and telling it to yourself, you acquire a greater appreciation for you and others.
Accept and celebrate all the parts of your life’s journey – the good, the bad and the ugly.
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