“If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.” – Virginia Woolf
Today I’m reflecting on my last publication, my personal memoir, Always-Always. It was a painstaking, brutal journey through the past. What seemed like a optimal idea, a way of working through a plethora of conflicting and untapped feelings, now seems like only a simple drop in the bucket of what has been my life.
I’ve often found myself rethinking the concept, what I would have done differently. As much as I’d like to think there would be something to change, I wouldn’t. My book is my life. It is only my perspective that has changed.
In life, we’re given one book, broken up into several short stories. Multiple chapters take us through a series of adventures. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that some are better than others- some are happier, some are darker, and some are in-between. The stories don’t change, how we view them changes.
In writing a memoir, the most crucial rule is to stay true to yourself. Unfortunately, that can mean risking an alienation of your readers, especially those who personally know you. There were several incidents in my book where I knew readers would be struggling to make it to the next page. Whether it was in the details of my sister’s untimely death, my brief stay in a mental health facility shortly after or the unpleasant details of my mother’s illness and death.
Many times I waited to hear from people who I felt would be deeply affected by these, and other, stories. Sometimes I did and more often I didn’t. When I did hear from people who were in possession of my book, they generously shared their thoughts and feelings with me. Other times, they would openly share that they simply were too overcome with emotion and had to set it down for a moment before continuing.
As much as it sucks to not hear from those you want to discuss the most meaningful moments with, as a writer, you can’t shy away from telling your truth in fear of that alienation. Because, that truth, those hardest moments to write about, are the ones that matter the most. They are the ones that will strike that chord and deeply affect your readers. Isn’t that what writing is all about? Writers can have the ability to change people’s lives with the simple act of honestly, openly sharing.
And the readers who are deeply affected, who learn from your experiences and appreciate your honesty are the ones who make the journey of reliving it worthwhile. We all have a story to tell, so don’t be afraid to share it with the world. You never know whose life you might change.
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