When I first started teaching memoir writing, I had no idea the journey I would be embarking upon. I knew I loved the genre. I knew I loved helping writers to explore their voices. But what I didn’t know was that it was going to change my life.

Through this blog, I plan on sharing my insights with you. I have been privy to hundreds of groups, individual sessions, and several thousand personal stories. I found that some experiences were expected and some – not expected at all.

The expected part…

Memoir writing is a wonderful method of self-expression, the genre is always growing and changing, and there is no doubt that through this process you will grow as a writer. And… if you have one of those exceptional stories or fearless voices (or both), and you take the time to hone the craft you have the possibility of growing an inspiring career and changing the lives of your readers.

The unexpected part…

As a writing teacher, I had no idea when I started working with memoir students that I would be a witness to truly profound experiences. I have been a witness to incredible insight and fearless self-exploration. I have been a witness to unexpected moments of transformation, joy, and healing. I was privy to watching everyday people realize that they too have a story and that their story is valuable. I started out as a screenwriter, and I teach many genres of writing, and while all writing is rewarding and healing, I was a bit shocked by the uniquely powerful experience that is memoir.

As a therapist, I started to take note of what was occurring around me. Without any formal “talk therapy” as I had been trained to do, the memoir writers were having real (life impacting) transformational experiences. Often what I heard was that the simple act of putting one’s life on paper was the source of a tremendous amount of relief and self-understanding. Many also reported that writing their story gave them a strong sense of purpose. While there is no guarantee that any healing will occur, my personal belief is that knowing yourself better and helping to take control (and define the meaning) of your own story can have a positive impact on your life.

I want to note that many memoirists shared that being part of a writing community also helped tremendously, as writing your memoir can feel daunting and lonely at times. Memoir writing is not easy, but as I have witnessed first hand – it is maybe the most rewarding act you can do with (and for) your life.

(Stay Tuned for Part Two – The Surprising Character Arc I noticed in Most People’s Lives.)

Authored by Marni Freedman, Founder of SDMWA and Your Writing Coach


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