Writing Memoir: The Fine Art of Listening to Your Self
Writing, like relationships, takes time and attention to develop. Indeed, both writing and relationships demand that you show up and listen—really listen—to the person you are in relationship with.
Okay, then. But who, exactly, are you in relationship with when you are writing?
When you write memoir, you are deepening your relationship to your Self.
That’s right. Showing up for your writing is no different than showing up for someone you love, except that instead of paying attention to someone else, you turn your attention inward and listen to your Self.
Your Self. That part of you that is benevolent, wise, and knowing. That part of you that sees your material clearly and recognizes its deeper truth. That part of you that believes in—indeed, that knows—your story and wants you to tell it.
But in order to tell your story—to write your memoir—you have to receive it. Not only its surface events, but also its deeper themes, which are essential to writing a memoir of meaning. And this is where the fine art of listening comes in.
Think about the times you have listened, really listened, to someone you care about. What happened? The more you leaned in, stayed present, and paid attention, even when it was difficult to hear the hard stuff the other person had to say, the more she revealed.
Before long she said something unexpected that caught her by surprise, an “aha” that she could not have anticipated. Your listening led her to this new insight or discovery. Your paying attention brought this gem of new knowing to the light of consciousness and raised her awareness about the thing she needed to say.
When you write memoir, you tune in to your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind speaks to you in a language of images, memories, and details. It reveals your story through metaphors, patterns, and associations. Writing becomes an act of listening to your Self as you capture these images on the page. The deeper you listen and the more you stay present with your Self as you write, the more your subconscious mind reveals. Until—aha!—a gem of new knowing you could not have anticipated arrives on the page.
Suddenly your memoir takes a turn toward insight and wisdom.
In that magical, transformative moment you understand your material in a way you hadn’t before. You see your Self through new eyes—what I like to call your “true eyes”—and with this new vision you make sense of your story for yourself and for your reader.
The result? Writing that raises your story to an artistic expression. Writing that deepens your relationship with your Self.
So the next time you find yourself in a struggle with your writing, remember that writing is an act of listening to your Self, of leaning in and staying present, of hearing what you have to say even when what you have to say is hard to hear.
You know how to do this. Of course you do. You’ve done it for others countless times. Now it’s your turn. Go on, pick up your pen or sit down at your computer and practice the fine art of listening. Only this time tune your ear inward. Your story is speaking to you. Hear it? Those images arriving on the page contain your deepest, truest Self.