“The telling of your stories is a revolutionary act.” –Sam Keen, writer
In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with subtle–and not so subtle–messages about who we ought to be, it is a bold statement to take a stand for personal authenticity. One of the most transformative statements an individual can make is to tell his/her story with honesty and objectivity. At its best, this is what a memoir is–a statement that declares “This is who I am and who I think of myself as being.”
Lest you think that telling the truth is only about revealing scandals and unmasking dirty secrets, let me assure you that it is more often about smaller issues, within the realm of the everyday experience. Perhaps you were never ambitious of worldly success. This has embarrassed you, but you would like to make a statement for another set of values. Or, perhaps you have been attracted to people of your own gender and would like to bear witness to that, but still fear repercussions. Or, perhaps you were a parent but, if the truth be told, you and your children might have been better off if you had not parented. As you can see, “telling the truth” need not be earth shattering, but it is about essential features of ourselves.
The daring part of this “telling the truth” work occurs at the beginning of the memoir process, when the “juices are flowing.” It is then that you ask, “Do I dare say this?” You get nervous and can feel yourself sweat. You get up from the computer many times and can’t believe that you are actually writing what you are writing. Or if you’re being interviewed on camera, you sweat just thinking about the reaction your comments will evoke among the film’s viewers. But, you persevere. Over time, the fear of telling the truth seems to diminish and become less visceral.
Later, however, as you make your written or video memoir public, you tremble at the boldness once again of telling the truth of your life, the truth that may not be consonant with norms of society or family expectations. Others–an audience you both craved and did not know would be so intimidating–will now judge you. You fear this audience will not only judge the morality of your choices but your very essence.
This is the moment when, more than any other time, writers fear insignificance. But, if insignificance there be, I say–and I hope you will too–let it be MY insignificance!
Therein lies the challenge of telling the truth. It can revolutionize your life. And that is why it is so critical. Address the challenge head-on. You won’t regret it.
This post was contributed by Denis Ledoux, founder of the Soleil Lifestory Network. Denis is an accomplished ghostwriter who helps clients write memoirs, one story at a time. Denis was selected as one of the top 10 personal history bloggers of 2011 by Dan Curtis. For more information on Denis, including how to get a copy of the free Memory List Question Book, visit www.turningmemories.com.