by Alissa Lukara
A memoir writer in one of my workshops recently asked me, “Was writing a memoir worth the time and effort?
“Yes,” I answered, without hesitation – which surprised me. Because friends and family will attest, I had been known to wax not so poetic over the years about the challenges of writing a memoir about a healing journey through chronic illness and childhood abuse issues, then going public with it.
But I am more than aware of and grateful for the gifts writing, publishing and publicizing my memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul have brought me.
Here are five of the main benefits I received from writing a memoir about this journey of healing, transformation and self-discovery – and not one of them have to do with “commercial or critical success” or “being on Oprah.”
1. I Answered the Call to Write a Book – and Found Completion.
The call was not casual.
I was called to write Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul. It resounded in every part of my being until I committed to writing – then sharing the memoir by getting it published and promoting it. At various stages along the way, I hoped that writing it (then stuffing it in a drawer, maybe after a few close, well-chosen friends read it) would be enough. Actually, I hoped that writing a rough draft would be enough to free me from going all the way with this particular subject matter.
But it was not.
I realized I would not be free of the “call” until I shared my words, my voice, via a published book – and out loud in reading and telling my story.
Cradling that first published copy of my book in my arms, seeing it in local and online bookstores, giving my first reading and radio and TV interviews rewired my internal system. It emptied and filled me at the same time.
It completed something in me. I knew I had done one thing in this life I had come here to do. And I learned firsthand, completing what you start, following through on your dreams, does make a difference.
2. I Gained Personal Healing.
Once I finished writing this story of life-altering events I had carried inside for so many years, it was no longer in me. Its energy was now literally outside my body in a tangible form I could pick up and hold – a book.
Writing the memoir removed the story from my body. It roto-rooted remnants of the trauma I had written about out of my cellular memory, out of my energetic being in a way that no therapy or other healing modality had been able to do.
The story, the past events that had loomed so large, that had seemed so overwhelming, so impossible, so challenging to write about, had shrunk from towering marble solid monument to flexible book size. I could hold and open and flip pages of this story in book form in my hand. I had transformed life altering events using the creative expression that had the most meaning for me – writing.
I had also created art and beauty out of a difficult series of experiences.
3. My Family and I Healed with Each Other.
One humungous reason memoir writers persist on that sheer rock climb to tell their stories, myself included, is to share them, to have them witnessed by others.
I did not fully understand the burden of carrying this story of challenges alone – until I wrote and shared my book with friends and family members. After all, I had spoken about what I faced over the years with loved ones, therapists and alternative healers. But never with the kind of physical and emotional detail and raw vulnerability and truth that a book conveys.
I was fortunate. Rather than alienating family members, my no-holds-barred book, written with the goal of deepening love and forgiveness, brought me closer to them, opened a deeper intimacy that continues to resonate and expand today.
When I gave this book that covered difficult childhood subject matter to my mother to read, saying she didn’t have to read it if it was too difficult for her, she said, “If you could live it, I can read it.”
Her response still vibrates through my being as I write and remember them.
4. I Discovered the Memoir’s Meaning and Value for Readers.
Having other people enjoy your book is wonderful enough. But when your words move them, bring meaning, change their lives, the feeling is indescribable. You know you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
Every hour of writing angst, every challenge flies out the window when you hear the words, “Your book changed my life” or “Your book gave me a whole new perception about my own situation, even though my circumstances were different than yours.”
Or, “I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading your book because I had to find out what happened next, because it moved me so much.”
Or, “Thank you for voicing what I could not about illness and abuse. And for sharing what you learned, too. Your experience gives me strength to face my own challenges.”
5. I Stepped Into the Wiser, Deeper Self Inside me.
Some much wiser, deeper self inside me emerged when I sat down to write my memoir. I got to hang out with that self for all the years I was writing the book and find out through that self’s perspective all I had learned, all the ways I had grown on my journey.
I let go to that higher self that emerges from the silence beyond mind chatter and “figuring it out,” and words poured forth to express what seemed inexpressible. In its wake, I discovered, knew, without doubt, in faith, the grace of every single moment of my precious life. While writing, I stopped pushing away any part of it, accepted all of it, said yes to all of it.
I knew with gratitude, that each event, each opening, each heartbreak, each gut wrench, each stuck in the muck, each breakthrough had led me to the truth of my being and to the love at my core.
And those are five of the many reasons writing Riding Grace was worth the time and effort.
What about you? I would love to hear what benefit you find from writing memoir, fiction or anything you write, what your reasons are for writing. Please share your comments below, and let’s keep the conversation going.
Alissa Lukara, the author of the memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, supports writers to transform self-doubt and other writing challenges to complete their memoirs in her online memoir writing class, Write for Real: Writing Memoirs that Heal, Inspire and Transform. Click here to find out more. Meanwhile, find out how writing can change your life by registering here for the free eCourse, Complete Your Book — Transform Your Life: 7 Key Steps on the Writer’s Journey. Registering for it automatically signs you up to receive Transformational Writers updates and new blog postings.