Lyn Alderson

Copywriter, Journalist, Blogger

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The magnetic pull of memoir writing

Memoir writing is an exploding genre. Creative writing courses are packed with eager students of all ages, poised to learn the craft of artful storytelling.

And phenomenal numbers of memoirs are being published as it becomes not just acceptable, but highly fashionable, to spill the beans.

image by Damian Gadal

Image by Damien Gadal

I see the current trend as a heartening one; a move away from the sound bite culture which really took off in the 1990s and has been dominating mass communications ever since. And although some critics of the genre say there are too many badly-written memoirs out there, there are a lot of good ones too.

So why this magnetic pull towards memoir writing?

Writing therapy

As a journalist for more than two decades, I’ve listened to a lot of people telling their stories- and I know it’s often very therapeutic. Telling your story at length addresses a deep human need to be heard and acknowledged, and that’s something that can’t happen on social media platforms.

Writing a memoir helps us to see the narrative thread in our lives, reflect on the consequences of past choices, and even find redemption or closure. It gives us permission to articulate feelings that we couldn’t express in the past, and writing about the trauma we have experienced has scientifically proven healing effects.

It looks very much as if writing therapy, whether in the form of keeping a journal, or publishing a full-length memoir, is gradually taking over from the talking therapies in Western culture. It’s not hard to see why. For some people, psychotherapy still has a stigma attached and has to be approached in a covert fashion, while becoming a writer carries societal approval but allows you to bare your soul in much the same way.

Connecting to like-minded souls

And writing, even if you are still honing your skills, allows you to connect to other like-minded people.

As New York Times columnist and short story writer Steve Almond so succinctly put it: “writing allows you to join a flesh-and-blood community of fellow writers, readers and critics, all of whom have chosen the rigors of narrative over the emotional fragmentation of the digital age”.

Publishing a memoir is more than an act of self-expression and connecting to others, however. Your story may help someone else who is going through similar issues and that is a great motivator for many memoir writers.

So if you’ve started a memoir, I’d encourage you to keep going. You could be doing yourself and other people a big favour.

For more information on the therapeutic aspects of writing, see The Write Therapy: How Keeping a Journal Can Make You Happier, Healthier, and More Productive : many of the benefits of journaling apply to memoir writing too!

To see more Damien Gadal images click here






The power tool of expressive writing: How keeping a journal can make you happier, healthier and more productive

Something pretty amazing happened to me about 10 years ago, which I’d like to briefly share with you.

I’d been through a divorce three years earlier, and was getting back on my feet, but I missed having someone special in my life.

One day I went to visit a friend who was another self-employed businesswoman, and she was keen that we went through a written exercise together. Anna wanted us both (separately) to write down a vision for our life as we would like it to be in five years’ time.

A vision for the future

pretty journal.jpeg“Write it in the present tense”, she urged me. “Just imagine a scenario of how you want your life to be, and write it down as if it’s happening, as if you’re living it”

So I said a prayer, closed my eyes and thought for a moment. Then I wrote about sitting outside, having lunch with my husband, in the garden of our country house. I was really happy with this man, who absolutely adored me, and we were having lunch with my children (who are both in their twenties). The vision also spoke of business matters, but I won’t go into that.

The incredible thing is, I joined a dating agency six months later, and met my husband Pete, who is a farmer! Now when I wrote my vision down, I was living in Kidderminster, in the town (and I’d always lived in urban areas- never in a rural setting). It was almost comical, as I’d written something about “My husband has been successful in his field”. (God has a sense of humour!)

At home in the country

So within a very short time, my vision started to materialise. I now live in a lovely old farmhouse in beautiful Shropshire, with a man I truly love- and I’m so grateful for this blessing in my life.

So why am I telling you this? Because there’s POWER in writing stuff down. It focuses your mind and helps you to find your direction in life. And writing is a process that can help to heal the past. This has been verified by psychologists in more than 300 academic studies over the past 30 years.

I’ve now written an e-book as an introduction to expressive writing techniques and it’s only 48 pages long- so if you’d like to know more about the benefits of journaling, you can get an overview of the subject in 90 minutes or less.

To find out more about my e-book, The Write Therapy:  How Keeping a Journal Can Make You Happier, Healthier and More Productive (and read a short sample), click here