A memoir writer recently asked me, “Is writing a memoir worth the time and effort?
“Yes,” I answered, without hesitation. Because regardless of the challenges of writing a personal story, then going public with it, you can also experience many gifts during each process of writing, publishing and promoting your book.
Here are five of the main benefits you can receive from writing a memoir about your life’s journey or challenges – and not one of them have to do with “commercial or critical success.”
1. You can answer the call to write a memoir – and find completion.
The call to write a memoir is not casual.
It resounds in every part of your being until you commit to writing. The call may not stop there. You are also called to share the memoir by getting it published and promoting it. In my writing journey, I hoped that writing a memoir (then stuffing it in a drawer, maybe after a few close, well-chosen friends read it) would be enough.
But you will most likely not be free of the “call” to write a memoir until you share your words, your voice. For me, that meant via a published book – and out loud in reading and telling the story.
So why do it? Imagine cradling that first published copy of your memoir in your arms, seeing it in local and online bookstores, giving your first reading and radio and TV interviews. Those actions rewire your internal system. They empty and fill you at the same time.
Writing and publishing your memoir also completes something in you. You always know you have done one thing in this life you came here to do. And you learn firsthand, completing what you start, following through on your dreams to write a book, does make a difference.
2. You gain personal healing.
Once you finish writing a memoir about life-altering events you have carried inside for so many years, it is no longer in you. Its energy is now literally outside your body in a tangible form you can pick up and hold – a book.
Writing the story removes it from your body. For instance, it roto-rooted remnants of the trauma I had written about out of my cellular memory, out of my energetic being in a way that no therapy or other healing modality had been able to do.
Whatever the subject of your memoir, the story, the past events that may have loomed so large, that may have seemed so overwhelming, so impossible, so challenging to write about, shrink from towering marble solid monument to flexible book size. Once on the page, you can hold and open and flip pages of this story in book form in your hand. You transform life altering events using a creative expression that has great meaning for you – writing.
You also create art and beauty out of a difficult series of experiences.
3. Your family and you can heal with each other.
One humungous reason memoir writers persist on that sheer rock climb to tell their stories is to share them, to have them witnessed by others.
I did not fully understand the burden of carrying a story of challenges alone – until I wrote and shared it with friends and family members.
You may be fortunate. Rather than alienating family members, if you write your memoir with the goal of deepening love and forgiveness, you can end up closer to them, open a deeper intimacy. That’s what happened for me.
4. You discover the memoir’s meaning and value for readers.
Having other people enjoy the memoir you wrote is wonderful enough. But when your words move them, bring meaning, change their lives, the feeling is indescribable. You know you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
Every hour of memoir writing angst, every challenge flies out the window when you hear the words, “Your memoir changed my life” or “Your book gave me a whole new perception about my own situation, even though my circumstances were different than yours.”
Or, “I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading your memoir because I had to find out what happened next, because it moved me so much.”
Or, “Thank you for voicing what I could not about [fill in the blank]. And for sharing what you learned. Your experience gives me strength to face my own challenges.”
5. You step into a wiser, deeper self inside you.
Some much wiser, deeper self inside you emerges when you sit down to write your memoir — or any other book. Then, you get to hang out with that self for the months or years that you write the book. You find out through that self’s perspective all you have learned, all the ways you have grown on your journey.
When you let go to the higher self that emerges from the silence beyond mind chatter and “figuring it out,” words pour forth to express what seems inexpressible. In its wake, you may discover, know, without doubt, in faith, the grace of every single moment of your precious life.
You can know with gratitude, that each event, each opening, each heartbreak, each gut wrench, each stuck in the muck, each breakthrough has led you to the truth of your being and can open you further to experience the love at your core.
And those are five of the many reasons writing a memoir is worth the time and effort.