Writing a Memoir Is Like Surgery for Your Soul

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

A couple of years ago, I started writing a memoir.

Talk about writing dangerously.

There is nothing more terrifying than sitting down and writing something about what other people did to you. Or what you did to other people. This is part of what we call in Celebrate Recovery, the personal inventory.

When you take inventory of your hurts-who hurt you and how you’ve hurt others-you’re writing the bare bones of your story. Your memoir. And it’s always scary.

You won’t always remember everything all at once. Sometimes God brings it to your mind a little at a time, so you can talk it over with Him and release it. But you have to write it down.

Writing it down helps you get it out.

You don’t want that stuff inside you. Inside, it festers and expands into an insatiable cancerous monstrosity that always breeds more emotional pain.

Writing a memoir is like surgery for your soul. It hurts at the time, and it may affect your relationships with other people for a while, but in the end you will experience healing.

The important thing to remember is that:

“No one will read what you’re writing until you allow them to. So you are free to write the truth, or whatever you believe to be the truth. … Writing is rewriting. But first you need to have something on the page to rewrite.”

Barbara Abercrombie, A Year of Writing Dangerously

In Celebrate Recovery, you don’t share your personal inventory with anyone if you don’t want to. It’s a good idea to share some of it with your sponsor or accountability partner, but it’s never a requirement. And you never have to share everything.

But you do have to write it down. All of it. As God reveals it to you.

This is where I got stuck in my memoir. I didn’t want to write it all down, because I was afraid of what people would think of how I portrayed them. I’m not using full names. I can’t even remember most of them. But even if I did, and I used all the names, I was getting ahead of myself.

And I was forgetting a very basic writing rule:

“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, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

My stories are my stories. My truth is my truth, whether other people understand it or not. I’m not responsible for that. I am responsible for writing my stories down in obedience to what God calls me to do because I am a writer.

I can always edit later.

And maybe those stories won’t ever be published, anyway. That’s not the point.

The point is to schedule the surgery and show up for the appointment, so that my soul can finally be healed.

Originally published at https://mishaelaustinwitty.com on April 21, 2022.

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Mishael Witty

Mishael Witty

Committed to making something beautiful out of the broken pieces. www.mishaelaustinwitty.com