Telling your truth

View from the studio,

As writers of memoir make progress toward completing a book, many begin to worry about putting their truth out there.

First, this is a valid concern, and one I tell clients they have to take seriously. I cannot tell them that it’s OK to reveal family secrets to the world; I’m not the one who has to live with it. They must decide for themselves what to leave in and take out of the memoir on revision. Many do end up taking out some information. It’s a very personal and important choice.

One issue that comes up is this: How dare I tell my story when I know that the other people involved, my parents or siblings, my exhusband, all have a different perspective, a different story to tell? I say to clients: Yes, you’re right. They do have their own story to tell. Let them tell it. You allow yourself the right to tell your truth and give them the same freedom.

As artist types we’re deeply sensitive. The way I reacted to butchering animals on the farm as a child seems to be 50 times stronger than the way my brothers reacted…I say seems to be because I cannot be sure how deeply the killing and gutting affected them. I do know that when I write about it or talk about it, I’m poopoo’ed by my siblings. I have to remind myself that even if they see my reaction as an over-reaction, that doesn’t matter. Because I’m an artist, because my soul is more sensitized and more open, I will have a stronger reaction. I have a right to that stronger reaction.

I was reading a NY Times review of Augusten Burroughs’ new memoir Wolf at the Table about his abusive father. The journalist interviews Burroughs’ mother and brother to see if Augusten’s memories are correct. Sometimes his family’s views are different, but that does not make Burroughs’ book any less truthful. It is HIS truth as a sensitive being and he, like the rest of us, has a right to tell it. Click here to read the NY Times review:

Contact me if you’d like to discuss writing coaching.


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