Going into the workshop on Saturday, I honestly expected to struggle. Non-fiction writing is not my forte; I have a hard time thinking of significant events when I have to, and when it comes to reliable narrators, I’m the worst there is.
When I looked through the packet and saw a timeline, I instantly started wringing my hands in anticipation. However, after listening to my fellow mentees and their mentors, I soon breathed a sigh of relief. You see, memoir and personal essay writing isn’t about spurting out facts and events like a tape recorder. It’s about getting across the experience of what you went through.
The most important thing when writing a personal essay or memoir is helping other people feel what you have felt. Our speaker, Dr. Laurie Jean Cannady, even taught us to take it a step further. She told us that writing a memoir helps you to recover from your experiences, and helps others who have been through the same thing to know that they are not alone.
What she said, that stuck out the most to me, is memoirs are about your truth, not anyone else’s. It’s not about the absolute facts, or how others remember an event, or the lies people like to tell themselves about a particular event. Memoir writing is like laying your soul onto your paper, and while it can be ridiculously scary in the process, it makes you feel so much better afterwards. I was able to put this newfound realization to use when we were asked to write a letter to any version of ourselves. Having also done this once in seventh grade, albeit to my future self, I jumped at the chance. It was a chance to write down all the amazing and not-so-amazing changes I’ve made since eighth grade.
You don’t realize just how much can change in one year until you’ve written it down.