Channel: Golden Agers Rock! » Memoir Writing
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Writing about the tough parts of your life is good therapy.


It's good therapy
Write your way into your peaceful place.

As you write about the event – the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of it – you may recall more than you thought possible. You may silently shout, WHY WOULD I WANT TO DO THAT? It may strike fear into your heart. Those memories probably have pain associated with those traumas, so why would you revisit them on purpose?

scary things
Letting go of old fears

Good question. The word “purpose” is the key. In writing your memoirs, the painful memories are the most important. Because you’ve kept them hidden, perhaps even from yourself, they probably are a stronger influence on you than you’d like them to be. The purpose of recalling them is to allow you to release them and diminish (if not eliminate) their power over you.
(Note: This may be part of your autobiography that you choose not to include in the book that is passed to your descendants. That’s okay. Please continue reading, though.)

As you organize your thoughts about a particular event sufficiently to write about it, you’ll recall:

  • Where you were when it occurred.
  • Describe the scene in as much detail as you can.
  •         “Look” all around the setting, and up and down.
  •         Physical sensations: hot, cold, sweaty, goose bumps, etc. How something felt on your skin (hard, soft, gritty, prickly, rough, etc.). Discomfort or pain, if appropriate.
  •         Any aromas, sounds, flavors you remember.
  • The circumstances: how you happened to be there.
  • Your age, size, color, race, religion, etc., if pertinent.
  • Who, if anyone, was with you. Tell everything you can about that person (those people). Why was s/he present? Was s/he on your side or against you?
  • What happened? What was the traumatic event? How did it come about?
  • At various parts of the story you may want to interject the Why of it, if you can figure it out.

You’ll certainly want to write about the emotions you experienced as the event took place. The risk here is that you’ll experience them again. Avoiding them is a far greater risk. It is only by facing the memory head-on that you’ll free yourself of its effects.

Write about its impact on your life: was it life-altering? How did you change because of it (if you did)?

1 Mister Robel cropped

After reliving the event, you’ll want to “reframe” it. You may, from the vantage point of your present self, have a different perception. For instance, say you were 5 years old at the time of the incident, you would have been small, defenseless, vulnerable, helpless, etc. “Reframe” it using your present self in that situation. Visualize the same villain — person, animal, inanimate object, or natural disaster, disease, or accident – and “see” your adult self dealing with him/her/it. Imagine yourself conquering the villain. There’s no need to fear it anymore.

If one of your tough times involved the death of a loved one, I guarantee that writing about him or her and how you felt about them and about your loss will expedite the grieving process.

You may perceive the event that so traumatized you as different from the way you remember it. For instance, if your memory is of being chased by ghosts at night, you might take a closer look and realize they were just people in rain ponchos or statues on somebody’s lawn.

It's Good Therapy

 Memories Can Deceive

If something similar were to happen to you today, chances are it would be like water off a duck’s back. If you are still hanging onto the emotions from the original incident, now’s the time to take a deep breath and let them go. I promise you’ll feel better.

If another person was the villain, now is the time to forgive, if not forget. I’m sure you’re aware that the only one your non-forgiveness is hurting is you. That other person, if still alive, probably doesn’t give you a moment’s thought, and certainly isn’t suffering because you refuse to forgive him/her. It not still living, s/he definitely isn’t feeling the punishment of your un-forgiveness. Do yourself a favor; forgive. It’s good therapy.

The important thing to remember is, you survived it. And you may have become stronger because of it. If it weakened you in any way, keep writing about it. See next week’s article: #6 REASON TO WRITE YOUR LIFE STORIES: IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH.

As I said in the note at the top, your traumatic event may or may not be something your want to include in your memoirs for your grandchildren. That’s up to you. However, here’s a thought: Turn your traumatic event into a BESTSELLER!

I do a workshop titled STRAW INTO GOLD in which I teach students to do spin their tough times into fantastic stories. A writer’s less-than-pleasant memories (straw) are pure gold. The awfuller the better. Now that’s reframing at its best. Do you ever wonder where Stephen King gets his ideas? I bet he doesn’t spend much time on a therapist’s couch. His writing is good therapy.


* My book on memoir writing, Your Life Oughta Be A Book, is available at http://CarolPurroy.com, in print form as well as Kindle and Nook eBooks. It is chock full of helpful ideas and stories to inspire you in your writing.

Also available at http://CarolPurroy.com is her own book of memoirs, That’s Life, which many memoirists have found to be extremely useful. In addition, it’s a very good read, with approximately 100 short stories – funny, poignant, sad, joyful, miraculous, amazing. (Also in print and eBook at my website.)


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