As I start to write about the life of a memoir mentor, I am reminded of the things I can’t do for my clients. This might sound a little negative. It’s not, I promise. I love what I do, and no two days or clients are the same, which pleases me. So, here are some of the things I can’t do and my thoughts.
Personal Motivation and Commitment
I can provide guidance, encouragement, and accountability, but ultimately, the motivation and commitment for your memoir writing project are in your hands. I can inspire and support you, but you must be responsible for your progress.
Not everyone I meet makes excuses, but many people do. The way I work is that you can buy one-off sessions or as a block. People who buy a block and attend regular meetings generally get stuff done. Having said that, not everyone does. Some are late, and some say the regular meeting wasn’t on their calendar. No one has said that the dog ate their writing - I live in hope.
I get that writing about tough stuff is hard. Blimey, I have to do that myself. What pleases me the most is someone coming on a call, arriving with excuses or imposter syndrome and leaving pleased as punch with their achievements and feeling encouraged to take the next step and the next.
What I find hard, and I confess I have had to set strict boundaries, are the excuse-makers who will never take responsibility. Luckily, I can suss these out early on now. I also recognise it’s not my monkey, which is hard as I have wanted to mother everyone… I'm only a mummy to the furry ones.
Writing Skill and Style
I have worked with clients who thought they could write, but it becomes painfully obvious that they can’t. The question is, what can you do?
Well, you could offer to ghostwrite for them, which I have done and not enjoyed. Or you can developmental edit and offer insights into effective writing techniques. But I cannot control or change a client's innate writing abilities or style. Each writer has a unique voice, and while I can help refine and enhance it, I cannot fundamentally alter it.
Having said that, when I pick up a client's writing, I can feel them, and on many occasions, when I have written for them, it is as if I am them. I’ll rewrite a section in their voice as I hear it and then go through the rest, suggesting improvements. You cannot imagine how overjoyed I am when they return with the next draft. All it seemed they needed was permission to be themselves.
External Distractions and Life Circumstances
Oh dear, life and its messiness. I cannot control the external distractions and life circumstances that may impact my client's writing progress. These can include personal or professional obligations, health issues, or unexpected events.
My role is to help my client navigate and manage these challenges as they arise. I always say family first. Deal with the crap, and then let’s start again.
Publishing and Market Response
I know the self-publishing process by heart, and my goal is to teach my clients how to do this so they can be in control. There can be some perceived difficulties if they are using WORD to format their book. They need to know the nuances of how to do this, which is easier said than done for some. I have had clients who refuse to learn WORD or lay their books out, will not watch videos and expect me to do it. Sadly, that is a fat no because it is one of my most hated writing jobs. Instead, they are guided to experts in this field.
The next thing is the thorny subject of marketing. I always suggest that writers note what others do and ask, can I market in this way? Does it suit my style and objectives? I can offer ideas and strategies, but it is my belief that my clients are better off with a book marketing expert who will hold their hands through it all.
'Marketing is the bridge that connects great books with eager readers.' - Unknown
In the past, I have offered strategies to support the client's chosen marketing person, and it has not worked. It really does need an expert. And I have no control over how the memoir will be received by publishers or readers. The success of a published memoir depends on various factors beyond my influence, such as market trends, reader preferences, and marketing efforts. What I do is make sure the book is well-planned and written.
Emotional and Psychological Factors
Writing a memoir can evoke intense emotions and bring up past traumas or sensitive topics. While I can offer emotional support and create a safe space, I am not a therapist or mental health professional. If deeper emotional or psychological issues arise, it may be necessary for the client to seek additional professional help.
On several occasions, I have suggested that a client stop working on the book and get much-needed help and turn to their journal instead. I am a great listener, but I find other people's trauma that I am not trained to deal with difficult.
Timing and Writing Pace
The deadline looms and has, for some time, on occasion, whizzes by because while I can provide guidance on setting goals and deadlines, I cannot dictate how quickly or slowly the client progresses. The timing of completing a memoir ultimately rests with the client and their personal circumstances.
‘I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.’ Douglas Adams
I am always excited to meet a new client. They usually come full of hope and leave inspired to take the next step, but sadly a few never do. I see people I know years later still saying they want to write their story, but something holds them back. I concluded that the reasons concern emotional and psychological factors. But who knows?
I adore the ones with mission-led stories who come back fired up and ready to save the world. These people work through their issues and amaze me with their determination to grow with their books. These are the people I feel privileged to share the memoir journey with.
Qualities For Great Memoir Client
A great memoir client is willing to be open, vulnerable, and authentic in sharing their life experiences. They are not afraid to delve deep into their emotions and memories, allowing their true selves to shine through in their writing. While I can’t give a physical hug when someone cries, I can hold space and never judge.
I adore curious and open people willing to explore various aspects of their life stories. They are receptive to new ideas, perspectives, and writing techniques. Their willingness to learn and grow as writers enhances our relationship in ways I can’t tell you. But I often do a happy dance when someone tries something I have suggested.
This is something I mentioned earlier. A great memoir client is committed to their writing journey. They are dedicated to investing the time, effort, and discipline required to complete their memoir. They understand that writing a memoir is a process that requires consistent work and are willing to make it a priority. Yay!
Constructive feedback is an essential part of the writing process. I have learned how to take feedback, which wasn’t easy in the beginning, but knowing what it has been like for me means that I can construct my feedback in a way that is not threatening or demeaning. A great memoir client is open to receiving feedback and is receptive to suggestions for improvement. They understand that feedback is meant to enhance their writing and are not defensive or resistant to changes.
A client who is introspective and possesses a degree of self-awareness is valuable to me. I do another happy dance when they can reflect on their life experiences, extract meaningful insights, and identify the themes and messages they want to convey in their memoir.
You know it, I know it. Writing a memoir can be a challenging and emotionally demanding process. A great client exhibits resilience and perseverance, staying committed to their writing despite obstacles or setbacks. They are willing to overcome difficulties and persist in their efforts to complete their memoir. I am here to walk alongside my clients, hold their hands and hearts through this stuff, and hopefully make them smile.
What would a relationship be like without mutual trust and respect? I want my clients to know their life and secrets are safe with me and that this is a collaborative relationship.
This is a rewarding yet sometimes frustrating career. There are books I have so wanted people to write and publish, but their stories overwhelmed them. And then some make me beam from ear to ear.
So, if you want to work with a mentor, don’t just turn up flustered and unprepared; your brain will still be focused on the last activity you did and thinking about the next thing you have to do. Go through your notes, and remind yourself what you committed to do. If you have made this investment, maximise this opportunity and get the most out of it.
Where to start with this memoir malarky? I have some mini-online courses, and you can work with me 121.