In my last post, 5 Emotional Challenges of Writing About Your Life or Family I discussed a few emotions—none of them good—that writing about our lives or our families can generate in us.
Here are some other obstacles we life and family writers face.
You Think Your Writing is Boring
We’re not the best judges of our own writing.
“Gee, my story’s interesting,” you might think, “but why does it seem so boring when I write it?”
In the writing classes I teach, quite often someone will introduce a piece they’ve written by saying, “This is really dull.” But when the class hears it they think it’s riveting.
A story can seem tedious to us because we’ve lived with it a long time—either in real life, in memory, or on the page. Let someone you trust read your work and tell you what they think of it.
Lack of Skill
You could confront technical difficulties with, for example, deciding on an appropriate structure for your story. You might think: “I just can’t do this!”
This is not as much of a problem if you’re telling the story in chronological order. (You’ll have to edit it later anyway so that it won’t read like a report, but at least you’ll have all the information, in the right order, on paper.)
If, on the other hand, you’re not writing it chronologically, you can read other memoirs or essays and use them as examples. See how those authors told their stories. (In any case, it’s critical that you read the types of work that you want to write!)
Take a class to strengthen your skills or engage a writing coach to guide you to and through the best structure for what you want to say.
You Just Can’t Remember
A failure of memory might threaten to derail your project. But if you’re unable to recapture key events you want to include in your story, do research. If you’re trying to describe the history of your family, you can learn more about your ancestors by checking these sources:
- Libraries in the towns you think family members lived in
- Historical societies
- Census And Probate Records
- Cemetery records
And, of course,
- the Internet!
Also, talk to people who might remember details you’ve forgotten. My older sister knows information about our childhoods that I was too young to grasp. She’s been an immense help to me in that arena.
You simply can’t figure out how to proceed with your story.
If this is the case, ask yourself what you would tell someone else about your life or your family, just as if you were sitting across from them. Or, talk to friends and family members who know something about your story. Ask them what they think you should write about. Or, you can engage a coach to get you over this rough spot.
I don’t possess solutions for all the obstacles you might face, but here are a few more:
- Work on writing something completely different. A letter (you don’t have to send it) or journal entry can be an excellent way to get the juices flowing.
- Don’t rip yourself and your work apart while you’re writing early drafts. Quiet that inner critic! Pretend you’re just writing this for yourself.
- And remember: just one page a day is a whole book in a year (even if you take weekends off)!
If you need a little help along the way, get in touch with me after you read what others say about working with me. Scroll down so you can see all the accolades!