What Integrity Looks Like For a Memoir Writer

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of seeing—and hearing!—Adele in concert during her Las Vegas residency.

I had some issues with Las Vegas itself, but that's a story for another day.

The show was intimate, authentic, and spectacular all at once.

Just over a year earlier, Adele had done the unspeakable: she postponed her residency less than 24 hours before the first show.

Calling it the worst moment in her career by far, she agonized over the decision but ultimately made the call because "There was just no soul in it," she said. "The stage setup wasn't right. It was very disconnected from me and my band, and it lacked intimacy."

It takes a great deal of integrity to make that kind of gutsy decision as an artist. As a creative. As a human.

Author and speaker Glennon Doyle made a similarly gutsy decision in 2016, on the eve of the publication of Love Warrior, her memoir about the redemption of her marriage to her husband Craig.

She announced that she and Craig had separated. (Here's the full story).

A few months later, Glennon introduced her new love to the world—former Olympian and soccer star, Abby Wambach.

Talk about a plot twist!

As memoir writers, we can learn a lot from Adele and Glennon about integrity as we do our best to write our truest stories.

Adele's show was supposed to be ready. Thousands of people had bought very expensive tickets for the concerts in her four-month residency at Caesar's Palace. The first show was less than 24 hours away.

How easy it would have been to say that it was "good enough." How easy it would have been to ignore the voice inside her that was whispering—or maybe shouting—this does not represent me.

How difficult—how incredible difficult—to "fail" so publicly.

But Adele was thinking long term, not short term. She was thinking about her legacy and what her fans have come to expect from her. She was thinking about her body of work.

For Adele to be in integrity, "good enough" was not good enough. She was capable of excellence—and if excellence meant canceling shows and getting help to create a show that had soul and intimacy, that's what she would do.

As a memoir writer, I haven't had to cancel a Las Vegas residency but I've had to:

  • Swallow my pride and ask for help even when I thought I should be able to figure out things myself (I'm a book coach, after all!).
  • Delay my query process because my manuscript wasn't ready—even though I really wanted to believe it was.
  • Sit with uncomfortable feedback in my manuscript with respect to privilege and religion and take the time to do the hard work to find the right tone.
  • Be patient enough with my process so I had the capacity to infuse more compassion and nuance into my portrayal of difficult people in my story.

Your memoir is part of your legacy—it is a concrete product that represents you that will be out in the world .

Part of being in integrity as a writer is recognizing when your work is ready—and when it's not.

Don't rush your process. Don't settle for "good enough." And don't be afraid to ask for help.

Glennon Doyle wrote the truest story she could in Love Warrior. Her ending—the redemption and reconciliation of her marriage–was true when she turned in her final manuscript to her publisher.

Then her life continued, and her story took a different turn.

Dear memoir writer, at least one part of that sentence will be true for you too. Your life will continue after you complete your manuscript, and after your book is published. And maybe your story will take a different turn, like Glennon's did.

But what I want you to take from Glennon's experience is this: Like Adele, she was honoring and valuing her contract with her audience, who have come to trust her. She was willing to risk losing fans and book sales in the short-term to not break the trust with her readers for the long-term.

As memoir writers, our integrity is paramount.

If our readers can't trust us, we have nothing. So write as true a story as you are capable of writing at the time and always remember your relationship with your readers. Honor the trust they have placed in you. 

And if your story, like Glennon's, takes a different turn after your memoir is finished, remember that growth is a part of life. Listen to the voice inside you and do the right thing, whatever that looks like in your context.

Be brave & in integrity with yourself—and your readers.


Just fill out the details below and you'll be good to go. Please note, your information is safe with me, and welcome!