Have you ever thought about journaling or writing down the most intimate events of your life?
Events that caused a cathartic shift in your perception and thought process, or ones that scared the living daylights out of you or left an indelible mark? If you have, consider hunkering down to begin a process you will not regret.
Although it is an option, you don’t need to publish a book to record your life, whether good, bad, or ugly. Anyone can self-publish their story. I encourage people to write stories because it matters. Why does your account matter? It could be purgative whether you are single, married, or divorced, with children.
“I’m not a writer,” I always hear people say. You don’t have to be! Record your thoughts on your phone or use the built-in mic in Google. You don’t need to be Jane Austen or Margaret Atwood.
Do you have a solid basis for your story?
The way to determine if you do is to analyze the significant event(s) that shaped you. The first thing you want to do is to define a timeline from birth until your current age. Think about the most significant events that impacted your life, both positive and negative.
Give a name to each event and attach a date (year) to it. Please put it on the timeline. Next, you’ll want to take a deeper look at each event by identifying the characters who influenced you: yourself, parents, siblings, friends, peers, teachers, religious or community leaders, or strangers encountered along the way.
Can you recall the traumatic events of your life?
Sometimes it is hard to remember as our mind blocks them out for survival purposes. Is that true for you? If so, sitting quietly and meditating – whether to a candle flame or reciting a mantra – will enable the memories to pour forth. I could define the traumatic events that escaped my conscious mind by calming my mind.
Here’s a laundry list of my traumas: childhood near-death experience, sexual molestation at five years old, consistent screaming and yelling in my household growing up, being hit repeatedly in the face and on my backside, parents divorcing, mother remarrying my first boyfriend’s older brother, discovering my mother is an alcoholic and father a sex addict, verbal and emotional abuse, and attempted suicide. Do you want more?
Write down and attach the most influential person(s) related to, or those who caused, the event on the timeline. Now you have a timeline of events by date and the people involved.
Do you find it hard to jog your memory, or are there years of your life you can’t remember?
Here are some tips for jogging your memory. The best way to uncover how the people and events molded you is to ask questions from an objective perspective. Take a look at these to help peel back the onion layers of your life.
Use these questions for each timeline event. Before asking and answering these questions, think about the emotions of each significant character in your timeline. Write out a one-word feeling for each of them. For example, mother/jealous, father/domineering, husband/aloof, etc.
Is there a thread or constant theme that keeps popping up in your life? After you’ve poured out your heart and absorbed the impact of the events that “made you” who you are today, reflect on the themes of your life. Write down these themes if there is one constant theme, such as betrayal, or several, such as lousy partner choices, fear of failure, and others.
In a follow-up blog, we will explore what happens after the themes are examined. That will enable you to determine how to piece together the patchwork of a book. Think about memoir writing in the same way as writing a novel. The difference is that your story happened to you.
Do you want to start writing a memoir but don’t know where to begin? Have you wondered about the process? Are you interested in learning more?
Tags Journal Writing
I would very much like to write a memoir, but I have had so much happen in my life that I almost don’t believe it myself. How do you get past feeling like your story will come across as unbelievable to readers?
The reason it took me so long to write my memoir is because I was grappling with the same type of insecure feeling which was in the back of my mind. I guess for me the way it worked out was not caring anymore what others thought. The moment I let that go and just started writing it flowed like lava. And once I was ready to do readings after the first edit I was encouraged by everyone I read to.
Thank you so much for the reply and encouragement!
Good advice. I guess I don’t need to think about what others will think about what I write. As I have been writing, I think if anyone ever reads it, specifically my son, maybe he will understand me better.
Carolyn,one time I started to tell an older lady what happened to me & my 5 brothers & my Mother by my father she said it was a lie . I went crazy with screaming & crying at her at the same time. I lost it for the first time . He was nice to everyone one ,but his family The things he did to us none would believe Mom escaped with us 6 kids I was in therapy from the time I was 14 until I was 33. I will be 72 & I still sleep with a light on .. My Father accepted the Lord I forgave him because Christ forgave us ,he is gone now ,but I still have the memories .He was in the war he thought we were the enemy even as toddlers there was no help back then for the men like today . He was a tortured man
Thank you for your response Judy, bless you!
When I read comments like this Carolyn, it gives me hope. I have felt exactly the same way at times about my life. It has been so varied with so many twists and turns I think, “No one is going to believe this really happened to me.” So I would. I would believe you.
Thank you Elaine! I appreciate your response!
I took a writing class at a local university and submitted my essay for publication in their annual adult education book. It was accepted and published under “fiction” even though I submitted it under “non-fiction.” I’m sure they couldn’t believe that someone could make that stuff up, so yeah, I know how you feel. Do it anyway.
I have been doing Storyworth.com all year. It has nudged me into getting in contact with old friends. I like their approach, one question a week.
I’ll check that out. Thanks.
What do you do with the memoir once you have written it?
Great question. Now that will depend on whether you want to keep it as a legacy project or actually have it published. If you go to self publishing route there are many steps involved because basically what you’re doing is marketing a product. We can discuss that at length if you wish.
I’ve journaled since I was 13, however, some years were more dramatic than others and it showed by how I wrote and what I used to write on. I’m also a writer. Sometimes, I have thought of writing down certain defining events in my life in a more formal manner. Thank you for this article.
You are so welcome. Keep on writing!
I can relate to ur childhood traumas because mine r similar. Molestastion, verbal abuse etc. I look forward to reading the next piece!
We are not victims we are survivors. 🙏