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Memoir – Do the Inner Work First

If you are feeling stuck with your memoir or whatever writing you are working on, it could be that ‘stuff’ has cropped up, and you need to do some inner work first.

Memoir – Do the Inner Work First

Inner work refers to introspection, self-discovery, and emotional exploration. Treat it like an adventure where you examine your past more, understand the presenting emotions, and make peace with your experiences.

This can be challenging (understatement of the moment), as it demands facing both the light and dark corners of your life. However, this inner digging around and healing fuels the authenticity and depth of your memoir.

What Healing Is Lurking?

Healing cannot begin until you have identified what you need to heal. Yeah, ok, that’s easier said than done. I find healing creeps up and bites me on the bum when I least expect it. Though, who expects their bum bit at any time?

Things often come up when you start planning.

Planning often rocks the boat. You may find that you need to share something different because other things come up during this process.

It's curious how what really needs to emerge reveals itself magically when you trust yourself and the process. I can think of two recent stories where the writer thought they were writing about healing sexual abuse (which they were) when they were actually writing about betrayal.

This, it transpired, was the core theme, which only emerged when they started planning, and healing opportunities popped up.

You Are The Healer

We are all healers, but only if we embrace that as our truth and embrace healing ourselves. By tending to our wounds and scars, we gain the empathy and understanding to help others on their healing journeys.

I wonder if it is ever possible to accept that in our wounds lie our greatest gift. What does it feel like to consider that you are a wounded healer? The term wounded healer comes from Jung, who uses myth and story to help explain life's journey. Over the years, I have wondered what my wound was, why was whatever it was staring me in the face at that moment, how would I heal it, and what would I do with whatever this learning was.

Looking back, I realise I have spent my entire life healing something and peeling back layers of shame, anger and low self-worth. It was moving through the wounds that I found the hidden wisdom. I came to value the pain and the lessons because they taught me about my resilience, bravery, the ability to get to the root of something by being able to see things in patterns and pictures, the faith that I could heal given the right ingredients, and how to love myself.

It took starting to write a novel that had parts of my personal life woven in to be smacked in the face with deep, unhealed trauma which revolved around an alcoholic father. However, like all trauma, it is more complex than just that.

By doing the inner work during this recent bum biting, I have embraced vulnerability and worked on the stuff once again. I did have support, and I think asking for help is important.

Being our own healers does not mean replacing professional help when needed, but rather, taking an active role in our well-being and growth, which is when we get the help we deserve.

Embracing ourselves as healers means accepting responsibility for the impact we have on others. Our words, through memoirs, actions, and thoughts, carry an energy that can either lift someone or bring them down.

By being mindful of the energy we emit, we can consciously choose to be a force of healing rather than one of harm.

Go us – we are incredibly powerful if we choose to do the work.

Being Brutally Honest

The bottom line is that you have to be brutally honest with yourself. You will either not write your best memoir, or you will find yourself wilting after a few chapters and blaming the budgie.

Inner work allows you to confront your truths and delve into the raw, unfiltered emotions and experiences that shape who you are. Ouch, and more ouch, but it’s worth it.

By being brutally honest, you can strip away the façade you might present to others and explore the genuine core of your being. Authenticity is the key to creating a memoir that truly connects with readers.

And if you aren't honest, maybe someone else will. I recall a lovely man. He was very highly regarded in his field, which was process-oriented, and he wanted to write a very soulful book. But you guessed it. He couldn’t. I had recently completed my ILM level 7 Executive Coaching certificate and offered him some coaching. After two sessions, I concluded he needed therapy, and so he went off to pursue that.

He has never written his book, though he did tell me therapy was helpful.

This brutal honesty extends to your feelings and experiences. If you understand yours, you can infuse your writing with emotional depth. You will inspire empathy and understanding.

And, of course, readers will experience a similar emotional release as they connect with your journey.


Healing is a process that requires gentleness and compassion towards ourselves. We are often our harshest critics, dwelling on past mistakes and perceived shortcomings. However, by cultivating self-compassion, we create a nurturing environment for growth.

Treating ourselves with the same kindness we would offer a dear friend enables us to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections without judgment. Self-compassion encourages us to acknowledge our pain and challenges without feeling overwhelmed, allowing us to move forward with resilience and determination.

Whatever you do, be kind to yourself. Stop trying to write a memoir and write to heal, then come back with those lessons.

Head To Your Journal

Here are a few techniques designed to spark curiosity, inspire creativity, and get you back on track.

Narrative Mapping

On a large piece of paper, draw a mind map of significant life events, the people who have shaped you, places that have left their mark, and pivotal experiences. This will help you make connections between seemingly unrelated parts of your life that could form your memoir's backbone.

Word Association

This technique is as simple as it is powerful. Write a word or phrase central to your memoir at the top of a page. Then, jot down everything that comes to mind about it. You could also do this as a mind map. This process allows you to delve deeper into your subconscious, uncovering emotions, memories, and perspectives you might not have considered.

Perspective Shifting

Writing about a memory from another person's viewpoint offers a fresh angle. I love doing this. Pick a significant life event and rewrite it from the perspective of someone else who was present. This approach may bring new insights into the event and the relationships involved. I do this with two chairs: chair one is me, and chair two is where I become the other person talking to me. Remember to be brutally honest when in chair two.

Letter Writing

Pen a letter to your past, future, or even current self, sharing thoughts, regrets, hopes, or questions. This will give you great insights. I love to burn these when done.

Write fearlessly, let your curiosity lead the way, and unlock whatever needs to come out before you pen your brilliant memoir masterpiece.

And if you are feeling stuck, get this mini-course. You'll get lots of prompts and exercises to help you get started.

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