“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
– Anne Lamott
It’s funny how guilt emerges when you tell the truth. Why does telling the truth feel like a betrayal?
Because it is.
You are betraying a lie passed down to you by your ancestors.
The lie is this:
- Keep the secrets and you will be safe.
- Don’t feel and everything will be okay.
- Pretend it didn’t happen, and it will go away.
Except it doesn’t go away. It gets louder.
Your truth is shrieking inside you, and despite your best efforts to quiet it, there’s something demanding to be heard.
If, to some degree, all art is subversive, then memoir is even more so.
There’s a dissonance that doesn’t ever seem to go away, because the desire to write is the desire to evolve, to resolve something we seek to understand.
We want wholeness, freedom. We want to know ourselves, and to be known, in some fundamental way before they put us in the ground.
But as we explore, we sense that our truth may hurt other people’s feelings.
In writing memoir, often the first hurdle is guilt. Are you being disloyal?
But your disloyalty is to something that wasn’t working properly to begin with. If it was, there would be no story to write about!
The irony is that when you give yourself permission to tell your truth, or even just to admit it to yourself, you begin to see what you have been denying. And this new narrative often includes, strangely, a compassion for yourself and others.
The truth sets you free. But first you must be willing to let go of the result.
When you let go of the result, you often go to places that you might not have otherwise explored.
If you must arrive safely, then these places are too dangerous, too forbidden, and too treacherous to explore, but if you make the journey more important than the destination, and make your curiosity greater than your fear, you will inevitably start to have insights and breakthroughs.
Stay in the process — this is where the thrill of creation lives.
Dive into those places where you fear you will be misunderstood, disliked, judged and even banished.
If we don’t experience your struggle, there will be no context for your transformation.
Learn more about marrying the wildness of your imagination to the rigor of structure in The 90-Day Memoir.