Two years ago, I landed a publishing contract for my memoir, which was not yet finished. In the following months, I had to sort through my past — the good and the bad. Those early mornings spent crying over my keyboard healed me in ways I still don't fully comprehend. You should tell your story, too.

I signed at the "x," having no clue how I'd make good on this promise. I was now contractually obligated to finish a huge project: my memoir. Having studied journalism in college, I am comfortable writing shorter pieces, but a book. Now that was intimidating.

The four months I spent writing my book were the most healing, defining months of my life so far. Granted, I'm only 30... Hopefully I have many more defining times yet to come, but writing through my past healed wounds I didn't even know I had. You can do it, too. You may not be a writer, but you have a story to tell.

Why it's important

If you've ever witnessed yourself overreact or blow up over something small, you've experienced those pent-up emotions demanding attention.

Our world is fast-paced. We all know that. So fast-paced, in fact, that very rarely do we get the opportunity to be still and process what we're experiencing before moving on to the next task. As a result, we shove unresolved feelings into our mental attics, where they begin to collect dust and pile up until they come spilling out at unexpected (and often embarrassing) moments. If you've ever witnessed yourself overreact or blow up over something small, you've experienced those pent-up emotions demanding attention. An overreaction means there's a deeper issue that hasn't healed. Combing through your own story will (and I mean will) resurrect some old feelings of hurt, shame and insecurity. It's unpleasant — I won't lie to you. But you can either work through these things by giving them a voice, or they will continue to pop out and take over again and again. This is mental work well worth the effort. It may be scary to allow yourself to feel that pain again, but they are just emotions. They will not swallow you up. They will show you who you are and illuminate your hidden motives. They enable you to change, heal and grow.

Just do it

Convinced? Let's do this. Don't wait until you feel ready... that time will never come. I'm sure there are many ways to approach this task, but I'll share mine with you in case you're not sure where to start.


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Create an outline

Yep, just like writing papers in elementary school, you're going to start with an outline of your life so far. Begin with what you know of the events surrounding your birth, and pick one (just one!) to write about. Think of one that may have impacted how your parents raised you. Now think through the phases of your life, picking out one impacting moment from each. In mine, I used this outline: Birth, elementary school, junior high, high school, college/work, marriage and motherhood.


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Fill it in

So, you should now have before you a list of experiences that changed the course of your life. What a powerful list! Start with the first one, and tell your reader all about it. Assume you're writing this for someone who doesn't know anything about you. And — this is extremely important — don't write about your life. Write from your life. Don't worry so much about factual accuracy. The brain has a way of warping the facts over time, but you know how you experienced it. What you experienced, how it felt, how it shaped you... exploring those ideas will change your life.


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Infuse it

This step is for those intending to publish their work. I use it in my blog, I used it in my book. Pretty much anywhere I'm writing about my experiences, I go back over the work to "infuse." Infuse with what, you ask? Universal truths. I go back through my writing, which tends to show how unique my life as a mom with a disability is, and I look for those things in my experience that anyone could relate to. For example, my disability makes it hard for me to carry my child. You probably find that interesting, but you don't personally relate. If I'm infusing, I'll add, "Sometimes I hate feeling like I'm not enough. I so want to be what my children need." And with those two sentences, I've infused my story with your experiences. I've pointed out common ground. Without this step, you risk allowing your reader to remain emotionally detached.

Writing your story will be a massive project, but every story is written one word at a time. Mine was written in 500 words a day. Go at your own pace, but go. We need your story.

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