Writing Through The Pain - Tips For Memoirists

Writing Through The Pain – Tips For Memoirists

In this post, we look at how memoirists write through the pain.

If you’ve ever tried to write a memoir, you’ll understand how difficult this is. A memoir is usually a difficult project to start and finish. If you’re telling a truthful story, there will be pain, grief, and anger to deal with.

Most people do not pick up a pen to write about all the happiness they’ve experienced. They write to work through something difficult, like an addiction, abuse, a great loss, or an illness. Even those that write a travel memoir have some pain to share with the audience. They may have learned something about themselves or the way they deal with life.

So, we’ve established that you will be writing about emotional pain, but how do you do it?

Writing Through The Pain – Tips For Memoirists

  1. Don’t write the book too early. You need to let some time pass before you can look at what happened objectively. (We suggest two years.) Allow yourself to feel and grieve. During this time, keep a diary of what is happening in your life, and how you’re coping. You can use some of it in your memoir when you start writing.
  2. Don’t include everything. Remember that a memoir is a slice of life. It is not your entire autobiography. Take some time to see if you can see a common thread running through your story. This may become your memoir’s theme. Read: Writing A Memoir? Narrow Your Focus
  3. Don’t write without support (if possible). Dredging up memories can be a harrowing thing to do. Be prepared for it by asking a good friend or family member to be on call for those awful, painful memories. If you can afford it and if you think it’s a good idea, consult a therapist to help you make sense of your emotions.
  4. Take a break. When the pain becomes overbearing, please stop and smell the flowers. Get out, meet a friend, or read a book. Putting some time and space away from your work-in-progress can be a relief and something you need to do. When you come back, you will feel relieved and stronger.
  5. Imagine yourself as a fictional character. Write about yourself as if you were writing fiction. The emotional distance may give you a more objective eye – and relief from the harrowing episodes with which you are struggling. Read: Why You Need To Write Your Memoir Like Fiction
  6. Write another scene. Your memoir will have more than 60 scenes in it. Why not move on to another scene and return to the one that’s overwhelming you at another time? Read: Yes, You Do Need Scenes And Sequels In Memoirs
  7. Read other memoirs. This is a good way of working out what you like in a memoir. It is also a great way to realise there is light at the end of the tunnel- and the pain will be more manageable.
  8. Work through the pain. There are some people that can write while still immersed in their memories. If you can do this, do it. This can be cathartic. Remember that most of us need time to process it and put it into a final manuscript.

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a memoir, look into our Secrets of a Memoirist course.

If you want to read more about memoirs:

  1. A Quick Start Guide To Writing A Memoir
  2. The 4 Pillars Of A Memoir
  3. Why Memoirists Are Their Own Worst Enemies
  4. The Ultimate Memoirist’s Checklist
  5. 5 Ways To Write About Real People In Memoirs
  6. 5 Common Traits Of A Successful Memoir
  7. 6 Differences Between A Novel & A Memoir
  8. 7 Tips For Finding Your Memoir Mojo
  9. 7 Tips From Journalists To Write A Better Memoir

by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson

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Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.

Posted on: 17th August 2022