…and scare the hell out of you!
I just published my fictional memoir and it took me over 20 years to do it. Why? Because telling the truth is harder than it sounds when it comes to talking about yourself. I love to create fantasies, weave spells in poetry, and paint images with my photography. But telling the truth is hardest when it is all about yourself.
First, let me explain the difference between a fictional memoir and a regular memoir or an autobiography. When writing about a section of time, you write a memoir. When telling your entire life’s story, then that is an autobiography. When someone has a reason for telling only a piece of their life, that’s when you usually read a memoir. There have been folks who do one ever 10-20 years. Seems a bit much to me but to each their own. In my case, I had a few important lessons to share and that pushed me to write my story.
A fictional memoir isn’t fiction. The definition means is I’ve changed the names of the people and the locations, recreated dialogue that isn’t exact, and perhaps reordered some events to make sense of confusing situations. But the story is true as are the people and events. The historical nature is intact.
A regular memoir tells a story exactly, without alteration. I couldn’t do that for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was to protect some folks who might not want their truth told for them. So fiction is an added, necessary element to help recall special moments that drive the story.
Some people also call this genre autobiographical fiction but the two are actually separate. The autobiography employs more truth and in-depth storytelling techniques as in a regular novel. Also, typical autobio fictions are longer works than memoirs due to the length of the life involved.
With all that understood, the question returns, why write something that requires you to bare your soul with truth? Good question. Part of the reason is the truth I needed to tell. Lesson learned in my time seemed distant and unrepeatable. Until now. Now as I see my mistakes repeated by others, I felt the time was right for me to tell my story, to reveal my truth. Perhaps my revelations can help someone where I didn’t have the help when I needed it. That’s one reason.
Another reason is I’ve reached that age in life when I don’t care as much what people say about me or think about me. What matters now is the truth. To tell your truth is to find yourself among the internal muck and debris. When you sift through all that “stuff” you carry around and get right to the heart of your true self, you set yourself free. Free of all the debris like self-doubt, self-recriminations, self-censure, as well as guilt and blame, and the other dirty little secrets we lug around like unpaid, excess baggage.
Owning and releasing one’s truth is to say, “here I am with all my flaws. I own them. I am them. This is me.” And you stop daring the world to criticize and point fingers at you because you stop caring if it does. You become more yourself than ever. That’s freedom.
Now I’m not necessarily advocating that everyone sit down at age 50, 60 or older and write a memoir. If you have a special story to tell, then tell it when you are ready. That’s key. When you are ready. Don’t be bullied or pressured into telling your tale until you feel its time. What I am advocating is whatever you write that is personal, use the medium to tell the truth. Let it live. This one action is empowering because you allow yourself to be your most complete self.
Some young people today say, “I am always myself. I always tell the truth.” In the decades to follow, I hope those confident youth can continue living those words. Skeptical me doubts because life has a way of pushing down truth for compromise, guilt, shame, or just plain necessity. Worse, we can convince ourselves that we are being honest when instead we couch or color our truths to make ourselves more “acceptable” to others (and haven’t we all done that at one time or another?).
But eventually, every truth will need a voice.
And so it was with me. I wrote, Breaking the Glass Slipper, because I had a special story to tell. How I spent my life searching for love and a promise of a fairy tale after disillusionment sent my life off course. My chosen path was filled with hard lessons and the memoir is my truthful testament of those events. As a result, I am free of my past and I have shared what I learned along the way. I hope I do some good with these memories and that is my reason for exposing myself and letting everyone see the real me.
Truth is frightening but empowering. Truth can also elevate a writer. Ernest Hemingway said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” You can’t do that unless you dare to write truth. To tell the truth is to expose what makes you vulnerable and afraid. What few realize is once you’ve revealed your secrets, there’s nothing left to fear.
And isn’t that the hardest part? To actually tell the truth. I finally did and it changed me. Is it scary out here? You betcha. But I’m glad I shed my chains and now I can fly. Because the only things that matter aren’t what others say or think but how I feel and how I choose to live with myself.
That’s why I chose to write my memoir now. It was time to write about what hurt, to face the hard truths, and maybe to prevent others from making similar mistakes. Best of all, I owned who I was and who I am because of my past.
Writing about yourself is scary. Writing honestly about yourself is scarier. For me, it was the hardest writing I’ve ever done and the most empowering. The truth really did set me free.