Word of the Week

What's It Like to Write a Memoir?

IMG_8019What am I up to these days? Writing, writing and more writing!

My publication date of this memoir project is only months away now. And we have title! Watch for Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility coming October 2016! The planning stage for marketing is in full force now, and it's excited to see the years of working on this coming together.

And just like parents who've birthed their first child, people are already asking me what about another? Am I going to write a second book?

And the answer is YES! (I hope).

I've got an idea brewing in me related to orphan care and already some fire in me that's got me drafting like crazy these past couple of weeks.

Being at the starting gate again is frightening (like I've never written a word in my life), comforting (like hey I did this once and survived so maybe I could do it again) and equally annoying (like oh, my goodness I'm going to go through this LONG writing and re-writing process over and over. What am I thinking?).

Thanks to a wonderful workshop sponsored by the great folks at Collegeville Institute and Austin Presbyterian Seminary that I attended a couple of weeks ago, my drafting of late has come with these questions on my mind.

  • What does a reliable narrator sound like? And how can I take the intense emotions out of my storytelling (those who know me well know I LOVE the feelings)?
  •  How can I write about people and situations with authenticity while also giving them grace?
  • How can I balance the need for both showing engaging details and also telling with wisdom that draws readers in?

But, most of all I think a lot about what makes writing good?

Like most writers, I always have the fear in the back of my head that says, "What if I am not good enough at this? What if what I put together flops? (Especially since I have no idea if you liked the first book yet . . . )"

In my fears, though, I know I'm not alone. Because the more I have conversations with those of you who are considering writing for the first time, you tell me: "Who am I to think that anything of my life would be interesting to someone else?"

And, what I most want to say to this excuse is: "Stop listening to that crap in your head and just write!"

I want to say this because I believe we as artists (musicians, painters, dancers, gardeners, etc.) waste so much time that we could spend producing JUDGING ourselves. And in this, the world misses out on the best contributions we might have to offer. (A great book by Elizabeth Gilbert has a lot to say about this which I highly recommend).

The more I sit with the question of makes writing good (or any creative offering for that matter) my opinion is this: good writing tells the truth. Good writing offers a piece of our common story of being on planet earth as a human being that we all can relate to.

Sure, in the writing world, grammar and proper use of metaphors within a chapter are important but "good writing" is not all about technical details, I told a young friend recently.

It's about the soul. Is the writer sharing his or her soul? Is the writer telling the truth?

I read a lot. And I can usually tell pretty quickly if I am going to stick with a book or discard it from the pile of books on my nightstand or in my Kindle.  For I'm easily annoyed by writers who try to sound like someone else. Or are so full of ego or lost in fantasy that they don't admit what is really troubling them.

You see, the thing is like you, I love stories. I love stories that make me feel less alone. I love wise stories that speak wisdom on the page that I'm not ready to say aloud, but want to. I love stories that give me new insight into those I think I hate, and stories that leave me convicted about how little I know.

This is why I have the words BE BRAVE on the home screen of my computer. I look at them every day.

So what is it like writing a memoir? It's growing comfortable telling the truth-- the best you can.