• Maria Ross
  • Naked in the Street: Two Powerful Lessons I Learned Writing Memoir
Naked in the Street: Two Powerful Lessons I Learned Writing Memoir
Written by
Maria Ross
February 2012
Written by
Maria Ross
February 2012

I’ve heard it said that having a child is like ripping your heart out of your body and letting it toddle around, exposed, in the world.


Writing my recent memoir was kinda like that.


I have published many food, wine and business articles. I’ve blogged for myself and many other outlets. Speaking in first person is fun for me, as it feels like I’m having a conversation with someone over coffee. In 2010, I even published my first book, Branding Basics for Small Business, in first person, which felt more like teaching a workshop. I have to admit even when I shared personal work experiences, I was a little scared. But nothing can make you breathe a sigh of relief faster than positive press, great reviews and constant feedback that your content is useful, practical and even entertaining.


Recently, though, I launched my first person memoir, Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life. There was no hiding behind theories or teachings: this was me and those I loved. My dreams, fears and struggles are now raw, naked and exposed. And it’s scary as hell.  I’m also an actress in my spare time, but even then, I’m playing a character. This memoir is not a façade. It is me.


In 2008, I was struck down by a ruptured brain aneurysm and nearly died. If not for a series of fortunate incidents, like my husband coming home from work early that day or living a mere five miles from the region’s top trauma center, I might be dead.  I spent recovery learning to adapt to my cognitive deficits, facing fear, physically healing, growing my shaved hair back and recovering my impaired vision. Doctors have said my recovery is amazing, given the odds and looking at me now, you’d have no idea what I went through three-plus years ago. The book documents this journey but also talks about the lessons I learned for getting back in the saddle and educates others about the surprising long-term effects of brain injury.


Two powerful lessons helped keep me going on this memoir and made me not just want to write the story, but realize that I had to. For any of you struggling with writing your memoir, I’m sure you will relate so I wanted to share this perspective.


One: About three months after my aneurysm burst, someone heard my harrowing tale and said, “You need to write a book! It would help so many people.” This notion petrified me at the time. I was focused on recovery at that point and the emotions were too close, too raw. A year later, I pitched the story to my local NPR station and they had me on-air. Many people emailed, posted comments on my blog or called to tell me how thankful they were that I’d shared my story. Many of them were touched by brain injury personally or in their families and felt relieved hearing that I’d gone through some of the same things they had.

LESSON:  Sharing your story can often help others. They may not know the things you know, have resources that you have, or even have considered an alternative point of view. You can be their voice, their comfort, their hope.

Two: In the midst of the first draft, the twin goblins of self-doubt and fear visited me at my keyboard. Who are you to be writing a book, said one. You’re not famous, you don’t have nearly the medical issues that others face. Other people have written many – better – books about medical miracles. Who will care about what you have to say? The other chimed in, “This whole book is about you. You are such an egomaniac!” When I shared this with a friend, she said, “Yes, maybe lots of similar books have been written. But not by you! When you think about it, Eat, Pray, Love is really just a book about a woman who got a divorce and took a trip. How often has that story been told? But the way she told it touched so many people.”

LESSON: The human condition means we share many of the same stories, at their core. Common themes of love, sex, hate, death, loss, redemption abound. They are so common because that is what we are drawn to. But no one can tell the tale in the same way as you can, with your experience, perspective, opinion and heart. No one can tell your story but you.

So get naked! Tell your story because only you can. There will be way more people comforted, delighted and inspired by your ability to streak naked in the street than there will be haters and critics. Knowing your story can help one person can make all the difference.

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  • Maria Ross

    Wow! Thanks Cate...I'll check out your FB group, as I have another memoir in me - this one a book of sassy and sweet stories about growing up Italian American :-)


    I'm thinking about blogging more regularly at She Writes about my book marketing experience. My first book was published with a small press. This one is self-published. I've learned a TON about what works and what doesn't - and I'm a brand and marketing consultant to boot so might be helpful for some folks.


    Thanks again!