Changing my story, one memoir at a time

potentialI’m not the person I used to be. Thank God!

I finished the first draft of the memoir this week. After thousands of words and hundreds of hours revisiting the past, I ended my trip to the old days.

It was uncomfortable going back into devastation. It would be tempting to slant the story and describe my character with a positive history. But healing requires honesty.

It’s important to tell your real story. Shame is a heavy burden to carry. When we tell someone the worst of ourselves, we open up our lives. I was once in a prayer group when a woman confessed that she wasn’t the mother she wanted to be. She regretted her harshness. Did we attack her and feel superior? Not at all. We could all relate with ways we had failed as well. Her confession released an honest conversation for the group.

What it feels like

I feel light with my story out. Lighter than when I started writing. Lighter than when I lived it.

On describing the past, I had to pick which scenes to describe. Would I bring up the awful things, or stick to the more palatable? How to narrow down years into pages?

Writing the memoir was like a spring cleaning for the mind. I aired out the shadowy memories, like opening a door shut long ago on a stale room.

Next steps

I am old-school and still like paper; I went to the copy shop to print off the first copy. As the clerk ran off my 225 pages, he asked me about the title, “Broken hand to pray with.”

I explained it was a story about my youth and how I broke my hand. He said he broke his hand on a car window that his soon-to-be ex-wife had bought with his credit card. After she had been sleeping with his best friend. Can you relate? Perhaps not in detail but in heartbreak!

That is the power of telling the truth about the worst of us; we all know the shame of stumbling. By giving it to God, we can start clean. As long as we hide our weakness, we separate ourselves from one another and stop the Spirit from working through us.

The memoir looks substantial printed out. Now that the draft is done, I will let it rest—like letting bread rise—as recommended by Stephen King in On Writing. Then I will punch it down and form it into a readable book through the magic of editing.

I’m so thankful for all of you supporting my writing process. Your backing goes a long way to give me confidence in my writing being public! What worth is a writer without a reader?


Lord, bless us with the strength to tell our truth
to each other. Lift the shadow of shame from our shoulders.
Forgive us for failing and help us
let go of wintery memories.
May the warmth of your love melt our frozen blocks so
your goodness can flow through us.

Some days we don’t have to win. We just have to finish.
Lord, let us endure.
We can look back and tell our story.

We can walk forward with honest steps.

Tell me your thoughts!

Is there a story in your past that would be healing to tell? What trusted friend would be willing to listen?

8 thoughts on “Changing my story, one memoir at a time

  1. Hooray for you, Gen! That is so exciting. I have healed through writing. I actually took a class called Healing Through Writing as a part of my graduate English Education classes, and it was one of the best classes I took in grad school. I had just broken off a 6-year relationship, and I wasn’t running, and that class helped me get over the heartbreak and get back into running. Writing is magical, and I’m so happy for you! The editing process just might be the best part. 🙂

    p.s. I’m doing full-time freelance editing and writing so do send me a note if you or anyone you know might need some editing assistance.

    1. That sounds like a fascinating class. I agree. I think writing can be just the ticket to move us through places we might get stuck. Thanks for your thoughts!

      Best of luck to you on your new career path–I wish you much success!

  2. Gen, I’ve enjoyed all your writing through the years of our friendship. Congratulations on moving into this new realm of the memoir. And thank you for inspiring me to blog too!

  3. Ohhh, Genevieve! Thank-you for sharing this! I seem to be in the same place now as you were then! I was searching for the thread in my memoirish stories and got frustrated and shoved them all in a cupboard. Then I flung my wrist to my forehead and declah-ed “Ah-ll think about it ah-nuthah day! Congratulations on slogging through it and taming that quivering mass of raw emotions! Good luck on your next step!

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