"We've encountered three s's that waylay writers on the way to writing their truths: secrets, silence and shame."
Linda Joy Myers, PhD and Brooke Warner, from their book, The Magic of Memoir
This month of March 2021 I am teaching a memoir writing course on Zoom for SCN, 'Would I, Could I, Should I Write a Memoir?' Preparing for it brought up a lot of memories about how I went from a wannabe memoir writer to a published author. For each of us, there are key turning points in this process. I can vividly recall the clear, mid-October moment, in Oakland, California, when I crossed that invisible line, between thinking about writing a memoir and committing to getting one done.
The transformation occurred at a 2016 Magic of Memoir conference, run by Linda Joy Myers, PhD, memoirist and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers along with Brooke Warner, publisher and founder of She Writes Press. On the first day, in a room full of a hundred strangers from all over the country, I suddenly realized, these are my kind of people.
I recognized them as a tribe I wanted to belong to. And our human need to belong is incredibly galvanizing. Why them? It had nothing to do with race, creed, class, socioeconomic status or education. It was the simple awareness that these were deeply joyful individuals, lighthearted and glad to be alive. The word magic may sound trite to some, but the sensations I experienced that day were movingly palpable, and life-altering.
Listening to those rare men and women sharing the deeply personal stories they were writing about, with people like me whom they had just met, was only part of it. The clincher was how they were able to laugh now about things they had once cried their eyes out over. This motivated me to join their ranks.
But there's a catch. This club has a rather daunting membership requirement. You have to sit down, and face the three demons, "[...] secrets, silence and shame."
That process took me three years. And drove me into a therapist's office, for the first time in my life. Finally, at age 65, my book was ready to go out into the world to have a life of its own. The weight it removed from my shoulders has changed my life.
Now I encourage others to join this tribe, by sharing lessons learned along the way, and from my fellow memoirists. Until we finish our manuscripts, we cannot know how good it will feel to be done. But a glimpse of the after-effects might convince us. There is magic in making such transformative efforts. Once inspired to, we do more than merely try.
Becoming is as powerful a goad as belonging. And the authors of memoirs have authority. They've become the genuine authorities on their own lives. And learnt magic in the process. In a world full of lies, the truth-tellers are the liberators.