“I believe that the memoir is the novel of the 21st century; it’s an amazing form that we haven’t even begun to tap…we’re just getting started figuring out what the rules are.”Susan Cheever
Memoirs light up life shadows, bringing social stigmas out of the dark and into the light.
A well-written memoir, wherein the author shares truthfully and courageously, has the ability to spotlight, even normalize, a personal issue that readers might not have personal experience with, or might even consider taboo. Statistically speaking, these are issues that many people experience at some point in their lives, like depression, anxiety, addiction, thoughts of suicide, substance abuse, trauma, and more.
When a memoir author makes the choice to share their personal experiences in these or other areas, it speaks directly to those who have struggled with the same issue. More poignantly, it speaks to those who are suffering now – individuals who might mistakenly believe that they are alone in their struggles, or that there’s something wrong with them.
And by the way, when I say “memoir” that can mean a traditional non-fiction memoir. Or it can mean what more and more authors are opting to do, particularly because they are sharing so vulnerably, a memoir written as a novel.
How many of us can honestly say we have absolutely no experience with ANY challenging life issues that might be considered taboo by anyone else?
Statistically, the odds seem pretty low. We’re all human. Sometimes it’s easier to deny it than to deal with it.
However you decide to share these difficult life experiences, as a nonfiction memoir, as a memoir novel, or through a series of other smaller pieces of content (perhaps future book previews), by writing about the shadows, you are offering the gifts of understanding, empathy, perspective, and lessons. You are offering these gifts to, in all likelihood, countless other people. You are shining a light into dark corners of the room where they’re curled up, feeling alone, ashamed, guilty, or a mess of other things you feel when you’re experiencing something that has been branded as “abnormal.”
No matter where you are in the book writing process, even if you’re barely in the “thinking about it” stage – you have life lessons, stories, perspectives, the ability to help others, and the freedom to pick up a pen (or a keyboard) and do it. This is not an abstract idea, that writing a book changes lives. This is real. It’s tangible. It’s proven. I see it every day in my work.
You can do this, and the attempt doesn’t have to be perfect, or even close to perfect.
The person who’s now going through the thing that you somehow survived, does not care. They just need to hear your story. They need to hear that the thing they’re struggling with does not make them bad. It makes them human.