The Wound and the Scar
There are things that are said - and said for good reason. But they have been repeated endlessly and so have lost some of their potency and impact. This is one of them.
Don't write your memoir out of the wound.
Write it out of the scar.
But what does that mean? And why does it bear repeating?
The idea centers around the how the work impacts and effects others. Because there are many times where writing from the wound is important. Writing therapies do this deliberately to just get on the page all the turmoil that is inside. Journals, diaries and personal blogs often share things from the wound in a way that I applaud.
And that writing can help both writers and readers alike. Letting them know their experience is shared with another person. That they are not alone. Their hurts are acknowledged, accepted and shared.
But if that's the case, why do I advocate for writing from the scar??
Simply put, because at best memoirs like this are an exercise in trauma sharing, and at worst are simply trauma dumping. In the world of memoirs, there are lots of moments of brokenness, loss or fear. It can be the single most shocking and shaping moment of a persons life, and should be shared and not glossed over. But unless that wound has had time to heal, it doesn't help anyone. In fact, it can be quite depressing to read to learn the wound is just as raw many years later.
Writing about trauma is important, and many of us are drawn to do so. And this is in no way a call to writers sharing the traumas of their wound in meaningful ways. Without looking at these issues, moments and traumas we are closing our eyes to real lived experiences. So why doesn't this work in memoir writing?
While memoirs are not self-help books, they are their close cousins. Many people read memoirs to find out about a persons story, the highs and lows they just didn't know. However another reader of memoirs is the person looking for insight from a someone a lot like them, facing difficulties of their own. There is no step-by-step guide to follow, but memoirs offer insight and hope to others. A hope that even after the trauma, there can be a healing. How the healing is achieved differs, but the scar tells the tale from a place where healing has taken place.
Healing offers perspective
There is no doubt that the human psyche helps us to simplify situations. It's necessary for us to be able to live and process great swathes of experiences and information. But it is not a rich, or necessarily a accurate view of events.
When writing from the scar, there are less "bad guys" or "innocent victims." The stories are about people. Men and women. People with pressures, families and failings. And the events they participated in. It sounds less dramatic, and in some ways it can be. Less super hero fighting and evil villain, but as a piece of writing that can positively change peoples lives, memoirs pack a punch.
Writing from the wound tells us there are people who have experienced wounds just like you.
It tells readers that they can continue to live, and laugh and work even bearing the wounds on their bodies, hearts and minds.
It tells readers that there is a way to move from the raw wound to the closed wound.
It offers what the world needs now, and will always need.
Memoirs offer hope.
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