The Growing Mind

Writing My Memoir & Emotional Growth


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Can We Find Our Authentic Self Through Writing a Memoir?

partner-1607184_1280(471  words – 3.5 min read)

What does it mean to become my authentic-self? There are thousands if not millions of articles and books about this subject. I read only a few. The most influential one was “Love Warrior “ by Glennon Doyle Melton. She beautifully takes us to the journey of her becoming true to herself and learning how to live her authentic self. Inspired by her very authentic memoir, I began thinking about my personal experience through writing my memoir. Have I ever functioned through my authentic-self? How authentic is my memoir? Am I brave enough to write a very authentic memoir? And what does that mean?

There is an old Persian saying – “good thoughts, good deeds, good words”. I interpret it as meaning our thoughts should be in line with what we say and what we do.

Being familiar with “good thoughts, good deeds, good words”, I know I have subconsciously tried to practice the concept of living self-authentic, but how do I find those occasions that I lived my authentic-self? When I did something and felt peace and determined inside despite outside criticism? Was it when I decided on my divorces to liberate myself and my daughter from others’ control and move forward towards independence? Was it when I made the decision to drop out of physics school because it wasn’t my cup of tea? Now that I look back, I see the consequences of living my authentic self were positive overall and helped me make progress towards a more peaceful life. I see that all along it has been my goal to avoid pretending and be myself. That is one major element of becoming independent.

Writing this memoir is perhaps the best practice of living my authentic self I have ever done. If I want to go further, I would like to ask myself, what were the consequences of those occasions when I did not live my authentic-self? That is the best outcome of writing the memoir. A self-reflection through this writing practice. I only started learning about those consequences by writing my memories on the page and reading and editing it over and over.

It is beautiful to go through the iterative process of reading and re-reading, editing and re-editing in order to offer a more connected and more authentic story to my readers. Doing this feels like I am scrubbing old regrets off to feel the freshness of the air on my skin.

I learned about all those many moments that I pretended and said and did things that were against my thoughts and my values. I fought with my heart’s desire and instead did things that caused me anxiety, fear, and stress. I didn’t know better, but trying to write those moments authentically is building a more authentic-self of me. Every step counts and make us closer to ourselves!

 

Celebrate life!

Shabnam

Editing Credit: M. Curtis

Picture Credit: https://pixabay.com

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Writing a Scene in a Memoir and Living in Present Moment

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(793  words – less than 6 min read)

At this point of my writing process, I have my first draft which contains all my related memories to the memoir I am writing. That is now like an autobiography rather than a story. The focus of my memoir is how I faced challenges to become independent and to be able to make decision for my own life, so it only highlights memories related to that during the years I have selected to write about – 1999 to 2010 in detail and some summary of before and after.  The writing class I am taking – How to Write Your Memoir in Six Months –  has been very helpful. I now know all those memories I have written through almost 120,000 words need to be turned into a story using literary tools. One important tool is creating “Scenes” for each memory to connect with the readers deeper through their imagination.

Learning how to turn memories into a story through scenes has been a big challenge for me. As simple as it sounds, at first I was not able to understand this concept in writing. My instructor in the writing class helped me a lot by reviewing parts of the story and giving me hints where I need to add scenes. It seemed clear but my learning curve was a little longer than I expected about this one. I was scratching my head asking myself what the heck is a scene? I started searching and reading more about scenes. I found a lot of great articles about it simply by searching in Google, my best buddy! We hang out a lot. 😊. I learned the best scenes are created when my reader sees, hears, smells, touches, and even tastes the details reading an event.  Describing how something happened through the 5 senses make the best connections with the reader. Makes sense right? I still had to dig down deeper to understand it.

One other question I came up with was how accurately I could explain the scenes in the memoir since it is a true story. Then, I thought about the 5 senses and realized my feelings went beyond that. I started to list the scenes that I remembered. As I always look at everything from a psychological and human behavior standpoint (my favorite subject of all time), I found a common factor among all the scenes I remembered best. When I was more involved emotionally rather than logically, and felt the energy and dynamic of the event, my memory was consistently more vivid. I have always thought of myself as a more passionate and less logical person anyway and that is how it worked for me. I remembered occasions with high emotions most accurately, and oh there were a lot of them – almost all my life. To my surprise, remembering the detail helped me to process and accept most of the bitter memories as an event in the past and a lesson learned for now.

This reminded me of some of Eckhart Tolle’s articles about living mindfully in the present moment. What do he and other spiritual leaders really mean by this? I needed to add some spirituality (absolutely non-religious) juice to this discovery of mine. So, I went back to re-read some of Eckhart Tolle’s articles. The one I feel helped me the most was about relationships, explaining how we need to first remove the relationship we have with ourselves to remove “I” and “Myself” to be able to live in the present moment. That is when we can offer true and unconditional love in our relationship with others. Learning from the past brought me to this understanding of living in the present. Living in the present is as simple as living non-judgmentally of ourselves and others because each one of us is unique and takes a unique path in life. It doesn’t mean we must approve everyone else’s behavior but it means to accept it as is. When we accept people as is, then we can take constructive action toward their behavior rather than being destructively impulsive. For instance, it is better to accept a thief non-judgmentally and as is, trying to educate and help them change their mindset and behavior rather than punishing them with death and disturbing society more than the thief did.

My other understanding was, if I practice living in the present moment, I will be able to remember things more realistically later. I will be able to process the memories and accept them, take the lesson, and let go of the bitter ones without creating resentment.

Writing a memoir has helped me improve my self-awareness tremendously. It has connected me with the purpose of life at a deeper level. I believe, everyone should write the story of their life.

Celebrate life!

Shabnam

Editing Credit: M. Curtis

Picture Credit: https://pixabay.com


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How to Represent Characters in A Memoir

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(824  words – 6 min read)

In a memoir characters are all real. We know them in person, but we only know them from our perspective. My mother’s strict discipline was harsh on me but she was a very kind teacher and a very obedient sister. It is important to show how a person has different roles in her life and shows different aspects of her personality in each role and under different circumstances.

I found that fascinating when I started thinking seriously about it. I personally think everyone should write a memoir to put the pieces of the puzzle of our life together and to understand what happened in our life.  But even if I did not want to write a memoir, I still wanted to know the characters of my story better and not just from my standpoint. I began to look at the story as a whole to find out about the role of people interacting with me as the protagonist of the story. But I needed to remember each person is the center of their world as well. Even though I don’t need to include all aspects of a person’s personality in my story, when I try to put a person in perspective, it helps me to be more realistic and less judgmental about that person. It helps me to remember that person was dealing with her own circumstances at the time. It reminds me how dynamic life is and how circumstances can change quickly in all different directions in one’s life. And that will help me remember to avoid focusing on small issues. That also taught me that things that matter in life are those actions we take that have a long-lasting impact in our life.

So, I started to create a questionnaire in order to know my characters better. I searched a lot and read a lot of existing questionnaires for character building in a novel or a memoir, and then I made the decision to build my own questionnaire to answer my questions about why people in my life did what they did. This will be to explore the character’s behavior and attitude psychologically. I will use generic character building questionnaires to talk about the appearance of my characters but this one is more about their personality traits.

  •        Was I able to be myself in the person’s presence? Why?
  •        Did I let that person be him/herself in my presence? Why?
  •        Was that person more logical or more emotional (impulsive)? How did that impact our relationship?
  •        Was that person fact based or did they believe things easily?
  •        What was that person sensitive about?
  •        Was that person an extravert or introvert? talkative or shy?
  •        Did they warm up in a social event quickly or stay reserved for a while?
  •        Did they approach people or they let people approach them?
  •        What did they do when they were angry? And when they were sad?
  •        Were they competitive in a community (family and friends)? Do they show it or did they deny it?
  •        Were their beliefs more conservative or liberal?
  •        Were they open to new ideas?
  •        Were they direct or passive-aggressive?
  •        Did they express their emotions easily or try to pretend everything was good even when it was not?
  •        Did they have a hobby?
  •        Did they care about liberal arts?
  •        Were they religious? Or follow spirituality? Or atheist?
  •        Were they superstitious?
  •        How long would it take them to make a decision?? Did they overanalyze everything?
  •        How was their financial status?
  •        Were they humble financially (regardless of their financial status)?
  •        Did they help others unconditionally? Or they expect something in return?
  •        Were they judgmental of others or empathetic?
  •        Did they think everyone else is at fault?
  •        Did they like to create a different day every day or they would feel better to follow the same routine everyday with not much change?
  •        Did they hold principles on their values or they would change their values based on the circumstances and audience?
  •        Were they problem solvers or complainers?
  •        Were they punctual or always late?
  •        Was the person persistent?
  •        Did the person consider others’ feelings in his decisions (from the other’s stand point)?
  •        Did the person plan ahead or feel comfortable being spontaneous?
  •        Did the person worry about everything or pretty much relaxed and easy going?
  •        Could you share a secret with that person safely? Without being judged and fear of revealing your secret or taking it against you to their advantage?
  •        Was the person authoritative? Or a teammate and cooperative?
  •        Was the person sophisticated and elegant?
  •        Did the person care to have a simple life or one of luxury?
  •        Was the person possessive over others?
  •        Was the person secretive? Or an open book?
  •        Did the person foreshadow signs of doing something wrong later?
  •        Do I know about that person’s childhood if she/he is an adult?
  •        Who was the most important person in that person’s life?
  •        What did the person do for living? Did it impact his/her opinion about personal life?

 

Celebrate life!

Shabnam

Editing Credit: M. Curtis

Picture Credit: https://pixabay.com