Some thoughts on memoir writing
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Stacy Nottle’s memoir, Breastless, will be released on Valentine’s Day, 2021. It is now available for pre-order from her website - https://www.stacynottleauthor.com/
I’m not in the business of giving advice and I’m not an expert on memoir writing. The experience of memoir writing will be different for everyone and you’ll need to figure out your own rules, or don’t bother with rules at all. Just get stuck in and write your damn story. For me, I had four guidelines to help me when writing Breastless.
Honesty was not negotiable. Without it, I could not see the point.
In being honest, I put myself at risk of hurting others. This was tough. I did not set out to use my memoir as a big stick with which to injure others, but I do live in a world with people and my story was sometimes going to butt heads with someone else’s story. I tried to be gentle with others without compromising my honest view of what went down.
Being honest also meant that I risked making myself look weird or pathetic or unlikeable. This was easier. I’m kind of good at beating myself up.
I believe there is a right time and a wrong time to release a memoir – if you haven’t finished processing your stuff and your healing is dependent on approval from your audience, then you are not ready. Launching too soon is not generous to your audience or to yourself. My life isn’t over. I haven’t miraculously turned into a wise woman. I’m still bumbling through life learning new lessons all the time, but the lessons I learned in Breastless are done with now. I’m not that person anymore.
Breastless is not the story of my life. It is a story about my search for self-actualization. Or self-love, if you will. Thus, every anecdote, every reflection, every word I chose to include needed to support that central theme. I haven’t put in anything just because I thought it was a good story. In my mind, Breastless is like a spider’s web with lots of delicate threads intricately woven together so that if you tug on one part, it affects everything else. The construct of a spider’s web is for my head only. It helped me to decide what to put in and what to leave out. (I want my readers to have an easy read without bothering with all those connections.)
4. Why do it?
Many people who write memoirs say they did it because they want to help others. Let me be clear - helping people or saving the world was never my intention. I wrote for myself. However, I have found that helping others is often a secondary benefit to writing a memoir because while the story is specific to me, much of what we experience, our thoughts and emotions and struggles, are common to everyone. When I sent my Breastless manuscript out to some people for early endorsements, many of them felt compelled to share their own stories with me – raw stories that touched me deeply. My readers would say – I know exactly how you felt. I felt like that too. So while my intent was never to help anyone but myself, if someone else is encouraged to share their story because I have shared mine, then surely that is a good thing.