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  • When You Don't Want to Write That Memoir Yourself--
This blog was featured on 07/11/2016
When You Don't Want to Write That Memoir Yourself--
Written by
Patti M Hall
April 2016
Written by
Patti M Hall
April 2016

It's tough enough to get started.

Everyone says how easy it should be to write about your life. You can keep a journal and tell a good story at the dinner table, right? So it should be no problem to whip out a 60,000 word book.

If you've been believing that, then no wonder if you get stuck.

I'm here to tell you that it's brutally difficult to keep writing and let's just say it openly here--most of us don't know how to write that memoir ourselves, even after taking the classes and doing the self-guided courses, and plugging away with a notebook during our free time.

So, should you drop the idea?
No way. Don't drop that idea, that dream which took at least five years of percolating to solidify into a conviction.

I say--No, way. Don't stop for anything. There a ton of options if you just can't write that memoir yourself.

Aspiring memoirists, wannabe life writers, people with a compelling story to tell...
sometimes moving forward with your memoir isn't about you writing it, (not alone, anyway.)

There is more than one way to get to a memoir.
You didn't live that life alone, so why not pull in some companionship for the writing of the book?

Let me tell you about a memoir-writing student and client of mine. I melt Silvie at least five years ago. She heard about a class I was teaching at the local high school. She wondered if she had enough skill to attend. She was sure she had a great story to tell. I said ability is no requirement to attend a class where we write about our lives. You just need to have lived a life. She was in. She did her research on me, by Googling me, reading my guest blogs, and picking up a copy of my products at www.pattimhall.com/shop;. I seemed like a fit, so Silvie showed up to give it her best.

Silvie enjoyed coming to a class, and she dove into the writing exercises with gusto. She did exactly what I suggested in class. But she felt completely unsatisfied. (Sound familiar?) The writing moved too slowly for her liking, she was critical of her memory, and put simply, she didn't like how she sounded on paper.

I wasn't surprised when she stopped showing up. I didn't hear from her for a long time. When I did she politely asked me to meet with her to talk about the option of me coaching her. We met many, many times. Because I'm passionate about storytelling, I gleaned the themes and features in her recent life story. It was a dynamite story. I was really keen to see her tell it. She had the desire, the time, the persistence, and she definitely had a book in her.

Memoir coaching isn't that common, but it's what I do and there a few great people out there who are willing to be your personal writing cheerleader, editor and companion from start to finish.

Coaching is a great option if you want the one-on-one support. Silvie tried it for a while, but it wasn't getting her where she wanted to be, either. She didn't respond to any pressure, subtle or otherwise, to write pages. She would sit with me as I gave her list after list of scenes, memories and moments she might write in order to create some written pieces. She could really crank out the paragraphs for the first few, but lost interest and would not return to it until months later when we met again.

This went on for years. Years. I was totally okay with it, because as a coach and writer myself, I know that life gets in the way, inspiration wanes, and the hard work of putting your butt in a chair to crank out scenes from the past can be uninviting.

Meanwhile, I completed three ghostwriting projects, which she was interested in knowing about. (We all love the scoop on other people's stories--it's why memoir is so popular).

A carefully worded, almost apologetic email arrived one day. She didn't mean to offend me, and she was so very grateful for all my generosity with her efforts to write, but would I consider, whenever I had time, if I really believed in her story still...explaining to her what is involved in hiring me to ghostwrite.

That was Silvie's answer. We agreed on a type of ghostwriting that involved her writing a little bit, and committing to weekly interviews that I would use to craft chapters in her voice. Her content, my wordsmithing, and we are on track for a book in under six months total.

If the writing is a struggle, try a self-guided course (check out my site for an e-book, printable course) or buy a reasonably priced e-book (mine is called What's Your Story?) loaded with prompts and cues.

There are also online memoir groups coming soon, where you and some other memoir dreamers hang out with me for two hours a week and nudge each other.

If you can't get comfortable with the writing process, your voice or pulling stuff out of your head...

If you can't find the time...
if you work better when you have a partner..
If you really feel unhappy with how the story is unfolding...

try a buddy
try a coach
try a ghostwriter
try a group
send an email to someone online that you think can help you.

But, try something. Giving up will feel worse than trying everything else.

The world is waiting to hear your story.


posted on Huff Post Books, April 8 2016

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  • Hi Patti! People are loving your blog post! I'd love to see if you'd be interested in writing another one for your She Writes blog? I'd love to feature it! 

    Kristin Bustamante

    Community Manager

  • Thank you for outlining the ways in which a memoirist may realize a dream of completing a book.  I will hold onto this article!

  • Great piece, thanks for sharing! I'm going to feature it in an upcoming newsletter!