Memoir as a Tool for Transformation by Kathy Pooler

Memoir as a Tool for Transformation by Kathy Pooler

“..ordinariness, when imbued with mindfulness, is greatness at ease with itself…” ~Lorraine Ash, Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life (2014)

We all have a book inside of us—a narrative about who we are and where we fit into the world. For those of us who wish to put our stories into words for touching and inspiring others, writing a memoir can be a tool for transformation.

Sometimes our narratives or the perception of them are shaken by life experiences and we are forced to reframe how we view ourself and our place in the world.

That’s why it’s difficult to know our stories until we’ve lived our lives more fully. There are always exceptions, but how many of us have stories like Malala Yousafzai (the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban for wanting an education)?

Let’s start by defining what a memoir is and what it is not.

A memoir is a portion of one’s life told as a story with focus on a specific theme—a “slice of life.”

It’s not an chronological overview of an entire life. That’s an autobiography.

Why write a memoir?

Speaking for myself, the decision to write my memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, was a personal one requiring self-exploration and honesty about my own personal narrative.

Some people think they want to write a memoir, but once they begin uncovering their truths they decide it would be easier/safer/better to write their story as fiction.

That’s fine. There’s plenty of room for good stories, both fiction and non-fiction.

Then, some people, like me, decide:

  • my life stories matter
  • my story not only deserves to be told, it begs to be told, and
  • I’m the only one who can tell it.

Deciding to write my memoir was something I felt in my bones. Again, it was a very personal decision.

Kathy Pooler: Memoir as a Tool for Transformation at LaterBloomer.comWhat’s it like writing a memoir?

Solitary. Painful. Awkward. Exhilarating. Fulfilling. Frustrating. Sweaty. Mind-boggling. Life affirming. Scary. Empowering. Healing. Transformational…

How is memoir a tool for transformation?

Writers have an unwritten contract with potential readers to give voice to their own life experiences in a way that will engage, entertain, inspire, educate and help readers connect with their own life experiences…

Here are my life lessons learned through my life experiences. Come along with me and I’ll show you how I survived and grew. Maybe you can, too.

Sharing stories through memoir can lead to connections. Although writing is a solitary activity, we can touch so many others through our stories. If a reader can see their story through your story, their eyes can be opened to a new experience.

The question I asked myself: Can I strike a universal theme in my own unique way?

When a memoirist transports the reader into a story through a plot, dialogue, sensory details, character development and scenes, then reflects on the meaning of the events, the reader can be a part of the story.

I once had agent say to me: “Fascinating story. It will be in the telling that will matter.”

How writing my memoir was transformational for me:

I lived with shame and guilt for the twenty-five years I spent getting into and out of two emotionally abusive marriages. The question often asked of me during that time was:

How does a young woman from a stable, loving Catholic family make so many wise decisions about her nursing career but so many poor choices about love that she ends up fleeing with her two children in broad daylight from her second husband for fear of physical abuse?

In order to answer that question that nagged me for years, I had to face painful realizations about my past regrets, missteps, and foolhardy choices. Through the process of writing, I found forgiveness, not only for the people in my life whom I felt had hurt me but also for myself.

Writing my memoir has helped me to heal. I found my truths and stood firmly in them. The process has helped me to transform my personal narrative, the story I tell myself about myself.

My hope is that by sharing my story in an engaging way, my reader and I will become connected.

Memoir writing has a transformational potential when the reader sees his/her own story reflected in the experience of others.

Both the writer and the reader are changed.

How can you experience the transformational power of memoir writing? Where do you to start?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Memoir writing is not for sissies.” It’s true. Memoir writing is hard work and requires every ounce of discipline, courage, and persistence you can muster.

If you decide you have a story to tell and it will be in memoir form, here’s my best advice:

  • Study the art and craft of memoir writing. Find a mentor. Join a critique group. Journal. Take deep breaths, exercise, Cry. Laugh. Reach out. Pray/meditate.
  • Identify and connect with your purpose for telling your story. Then write your heart out—on a schedule that works for you.
  • Use memoir as a tool to transform yourself and your readers.
  • Above all, believe deep in your core that you have a story to tell and you are the only one who can tell it.

My website, Memoir Writer’s Journey, is dedicated to writing a memoir. Stop by and join in the conversation and check out the Memoir Writing Resources.

Have you experienced transformation in writing or reading a memoir? How has a memoir changed you?

Kathy Pooler: Memoir as a Tool for Transformation at LaterBloomer.comThank you, Kathy, for sharing your experience, in life and in writing.

Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse is available through Amazon and Smashwords. More info can be found at Open Books Press.

25 Responses

  1. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Dear Debra,

    Thank you so much for being such a gracious host for my virtual book tour. The photo of the butterflies is exquisite! Tomorrow I will be interviewed by Sonia Marsh in a Google+ hangout and this topic fits right in with what we will talk about- How writing my memoir helped me get gutsy. Perfect timing! I’m honored to be a guest on your lovely blog and look forward to responding to comments.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
      |

      My pleasure, Kathy! So sorry I won’t be able to make the hangout tomorrow. I’ve never been to one and would love to see how it works. Have fun!

    • Kathleen Pooler
      |

      Debra,
      I understand. Sonia does them at least once a month. It will be recorded on YouTube and she usually shares the link on Facebook.

  2. Wanda S. Maxey
    | Reply

    Hi Kathy,

    I just finished reading your wonderful book, and felt a true connection with you. Thanks for writing your memoir and sharing so that others may be helped.

    Sweet blessings,
    Wanda S.
    http://wandasmaxey.com

    • Kathleen Pooler
      |

      Oh Wanda, that is so kind of you. I actually felt the same connection to you when I read your memoir, Love and Abuse on 40 Acres. I’m so happy we can share the mission of domestic abuse awareness and prevention through our stories. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your ongoing support. I’m looking forward to featuring you on my blog on 11/17 with your next memoir.
      Blessings,
      Kathy

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
      |

      Hello and welcome, Wanda! I believe it’s critical we break the pattern of silence regarding domestic abuse. I so admire the courage you and Kathy have shown in telling your stories. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Patricia
    | Reply

    I’m so glad that Kathleen found the courage to “talk out loud” (ie write) about her challenges and journey to freedom. Some things seem too personal to share with the world, so it takes a lot of courage to put it out there.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Kathleen Pooler
      |

      Hi Patricia,
      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. Your comments remind me that the ongoing support and encouragement from my writing community helped me to write through the pain and share my story. I learned that allowing myself to be vulnerable “on the page” not only helped me to heal but helped me become stronger so I could share my story with others.. Thank you very much for stopping by.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
      |

      So true, Patricia. It’s that very silence that makes us feel alone and hopeless. I so admire the courage of memoir writers like Kathy. Thanks for weighing in!

  4. Lynne Spreen
    | Reply

    I read Kathy’s book and I can recommend it wholeheartedly. Many of us are, like Kathy, powerful, ethical human beings with very good brains, and yet, we make choices (particularly as young people) that hobble us, at best, and at worst, injure and maim us. The big question is, why? How can we be so smart and still so confused? This memoir helps explain that, and in so doing, helps us understand ourselves.

    • Kathleen Pooler
      |

      Thanks so much , Lynne for your ongoing support and insights. I agree that finding the answers to those questions that plague us can help us heal and move on.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
      |

      I’ve not read Kathy’s book yet, but I know what a great writer she is from following her blog. You words are so wise, Lynn, and certainly apply to me — very good brain, some really poor choices. I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Julia
    | Reply

    Thank you Kathy and Debra. Just accompanied a woman in my critique group through the first draft of her memoir, and this post touches on the key: encouragement. It’s pretty hard to dig honestly into your own life, but worth the effort. Best wishes as you work on your sequel.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
      |

      So true, Julia. Facing yourself is the first step to facing the future. I’ve never been interested in writing a memoir, but now I realize how important this form of story-sharing is. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Kathleen Pooler
      |

      Dear Julia, Thanks for stopping by to comment. You are right, memoir writing can be a grueling process but it is , as you say, worth it.

  6. Kassandra Lamb
    | Reply

    I will be putting this memoir on my TBR list. Thank you for your courage, Kathleen!

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
      |

      We’re just barely past the era when women suffered in silence because they’d be ostracized if they left their marriage. I too admire Kathy’s courage to leave with young children. Thanks for stopping by, Kassandra!

    • Kathleen Pooler
      |

      Thank you, Kassandra! I appreciate your support and I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading it.

  7. Cathy Chester
    | Reply

    This was an interesting post for me to read at this point in my journey and I thank you for offering it. A lot to digest and thank you so much!

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
      |

      Thanks for your kind words, Cathy!

    • Kathleen Pooler
      |

      Thank you , Cathy. I appreciate you stopping by and I’m happy you found the post useful. Best wishes on your journey.

  8. Gloria
    | Reply

    Thank you. I appreciate this blog so much. Your dedication to the second half or your life and the possibilities inherent therein is of great import! Thank you. I’m 48, and now it’s my time.

Leave a Reply