What Memoir Writers Fear Most

Beck came to me last spring with a vague idea about the story he wanted to write.

Snippets of experiences from my childhood living as a girl and moments of parallel in adulthood, as I re-experience firsts as a man.

Okay.

I knew there was an important story there, and I also knew that "snippets" weren't going to do it justice.

"What are you most afraid of?" I asked. I figured the snippets approach was a way for Beck to protect himself, to guard his heart from further trauma and judgment.

Snippets! So light and breezy!

Because this is a writer who has been abandoned over and over by the people who are supposed to love him most.

"Oh, I'm afraid that people will think my book is a narcissistic journey into nothingness," Beck said.

I chuckled, not because this was funny but because I hear a variation of this fear all the time from writers.

Being afraid that people will think you're a narcissist if you write your story really means you're afraid that no one will care what you have to say.

Other fears pop up on the memoir journey too:

  • Being afraid that you aren't a good enough writer.
  • Being afraid that you'll hurt other people.

Real fears with real solutions.

The biggest mountain to climb.

But the fear that no one will care what you have to say, that no one will care about your story—that's the biggest mountain of all to climb.

Virtually all memoir writers face this fear, and for writers from marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ+ community, this fear is even more acute.

Because when you've been told repeatedly that your story doesn't matter—that you don't matter—you start believing it.

When you've been told that you're an abomination, you start believing it.

When you've been told that the only way for you to survive in this world is to stay in the closet, you start believing it.

When you've lost family and friends simply by being your authentic self, you wonder if you can handle more rejection.

You ask yourself if it's worth writing your story.

You start believing the lies that you have nothing of value to say.

One way to face this fear is to voice it. Say aloud what you are most afraid of. Write it down. Take away some of its power.

Beck did just that and now he's writing his story.

The snippets have been replaced with a heart-wrenching & powerful braided narrative about his unusual journeys to parenthood, to his authentic self, and to reconciliation with the parent who abandoned him and his siblings when he was eight.

Doesn't sound much like a narcissistic journey into nothingness, does it? 

Beck's story matters.

Representation matters. Your story matters.

What's your biggest fear? I'm cheering you on to face it.

Someone out there is waiting for your story.

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