Author Andrea Couture’s memoir Embracing What Remains was published earlier this year. Here are her thoughts about the writing process and tips for other writers interested in telling their personal stories.
Memoir writing is intentional and deliberate.
We all have something in our life that has made us feel changed. Memoir is how you explain while looking back and reflecting on the changes that have occurred over time. It might have been an amazing trip, losing a loved one, getting divorced, battling a disease or addiction, having a medical event, pursuing and achieving a goal, surviving a catastrophic event or act of nature, accident. This list goes on.
It is the emotions you processed, the details of the event or adventure or time in your life, the lessons learned. This is memoir. It’s a chronological listing of your life’s events from birth until present day. It’s the story you want to share and how it came to be and where it brought you.
Who have you become because of it?
What did you learn?
How do you feel differently?
To write memoir you have to be ready to expose yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, your story. It’s one of the most vulnerable things you can do—to share your story, your truth.
Because that is memoir. It’s a truth you have decided to write down and share with the world in print form. Your goal to start may be to just get your story down. Feel the healing and solace in seeing your words in print, “there, I let it out!” you may say to yourself or even out loud. But, then it becomes more than just your writing. It begins with the first person who reads your story, it becomes a snowball effect. One reads, then another and another. They begin to comment, connect, tell you they enjoyed it, they cried, they laughed, and the ultimate connection at times is that they actually understand or have the same feelings and thoughts as you, maybe even a similar experience. To write a memoir is to reflect on a time in your life, a time you feel transformed by in some way. You share the story to let it out but really you share the story so others can read it and feel less alone or learn from your experience.
Memoir can be cathartic, painful, raw, enlightening, amazing, and releasing. You type words and the story doesn’t change but your feelings may become more real or apparent. You may realize you are more changed by this time in your life than you really thought.
You think back to yourself in the before, during, and after places and see yourself differently.
How did it make you feel?
Why did you feel it?
You cannot judge yourself, merely explain your feelings and move on. The reader doesn’t need your self-judgment, and neither do you. You deserve to own the way you felt and honor it as you now know differently, hence the beauty and outcome of your journey that brought you to a place you wanted to share your story.
You must go from the caterpillar to the butterfly, you cannot write from the cocoon, you haven’t seen the light yet and that is the point of the memoir, to share the light that you finally saw in the darkness of challenge, struggle, pain—the journey. You will detail all of this in your writing, but you must let the reader fully into your head and heart.
Bring those tears to the page, I guarantee you will type through tear-filled eyes and often a laugh, and your reader will feel it too and understand the transformation, thus achieving the goal of memoir.
Andrea Couture is an author and mother of three children. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree
in Journalism from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Embracing What Remains is Andrea’s first
memoir and book. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, children, and her dog.