“The best thing that you can do is to teach people to write, because there is no difference between that and thinking. No-one ever tells students ‘why’ they should write something. You need to learn to think because thinking makes you engage actively in the world. Thinking makes you win the battles you undertake. If you can think and speak and write – you are deadly. Nothing can get in your way. That’s why you learn to write. It’s the most powerful weapon you could possibly provide someone with. That’s motivating. It’s an endless mystery to me why that isn’t made self evident.” Dr. Jordan Peterson
When we engage in the process of writing our own life story, we engage is something that is worthwhile. Naturally therefore, the enemies of self-doubt, criticism, and our habits to procrastinate quickly set in. Protect yourself with this list of 10 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Memoirs…
- Adventure and Self Discovery: To Know Thyself, we must engage in a method where we observe who we are, where we have come from and what we have done. Like a painter stepping back from his canvass, we must assume the objective position of the observer or silent witness and begin to process and un-pack. The practise of writing our own life story outright clarifies everything that is otherwise vague and unknown and for more information on this, please see the Blog Post, Order and Chaos – Ghostwriter and Subject. To bring what is unknown about the self into consciousness is quite significant indeed, and is considered a successful part of any psychotherapeutic journey. Write it down and stare it square in the eyes objectively without emotion. This process of self discovery cultures more self knowing as you continue more objectively down the ‘long road’ chapter by chapter. Go forth!
- Cohesion and Clarity: The process of sorting or arranging things into order brings forth order and arrangement to the psyche. A person feels more organised and arranged when their room, desk and folders are in order. This is true of the self’s understanding and comprehension of itself. Ones own sense of ones self will become more balanced and more clear when things are placed into a together arrangement. A person will feel more level headed, grounded and less disorganised. It moves a person from deranged to arranged. From chaos to order.
- Contextualisation and Humility of the Self: The practise of writing our own autobiography establishes what we are and what we are not. This process humbles the soul and burns the ego. Eastern philosophy is concerned with the destruction of the ego to reveal the real self which has graceful potential and sage like wisdom, compared with Western philosophy which is mainly concerned with development of the self…
- Development of the Self: The process of writing a life story is not easy. On the contrary it is rather gruelling and generates inner tension, and the author is like a martial arts student who is tense and under-developed. As he matures as an artist, he learns to cultivate discipline and patience through practise and dedication. This process cultivates resilience and strengthens the ego. Suddenly storms don’t affect us like they used to, now we are well trained and developed. The process of writing a book, be it memoirs or indeed novel develops the self as it requires us to reach into parts of our character that are untapped, weak and infantile.
- To Influence: True this; beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword! Because the pen ‘is’ mightier than the sword, books can change cultures, ways of thinking, societies and can evolve us. If we are still in question about this, and the power of the word, we may wish to consider just some of the books listed by British poet and critic Martin Seymour-Smith in his work entitled conveniently: The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times author to Today. Smith reminds us of such works as the Hebrew Bible, the Kabbalah, Analects by Confucius, and the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels. Here are a few more: A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson, the Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, Principe Mathematica by Isaac Newton, Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao, Relativity by Albert Einstein, The Republic by Plato, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Interpretation of Dreams – Sigmund Freud, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Logica of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper, and the New Testament. Despite the reality of the strength that words have, it is easy to forget how powerful and significant spoken and written language is in our modern world.
- Catharsis: The process is very much like a purge. A person will find themselves talking and writing and talking and writing. To quote Victor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning after one prisoner had found a farm to eat in, ‘And when one of the prisoners was invited out by a friendly farmer in the neighbourhood, he ate and ate and then drank coffee, which loosened his tongue, and he then began to talk, often for hours. The pressure which had been on his mind for years had been released at last … Many days passed, until not only the tongue was loosened, but something within oneself as well; then feeling suddenly broke through the strange fetters which had restrained it.’ Many of us have lived lives with pressures, but we can consider these pressures as forces urging us to release what is otherwise festering and becoming heavy. The book form is free and available for all to channel and use as a positive outlet. Perhaps if it was taken from us, we would respect and desire it again. Allow yourself to write badly, get it out, get it down and tidy it up after.
- Investment in the Self: A lot of the time, we put ourselves on pause. We allow for our family and our careers and our ‘responsibilities’ to take over us. This is what Julia Cameron calls the ‘Virtue Trap’ as it can be considered a form of creative resistance. Truth be told, we have unconsciously walked away from ourselves and our responsibilities to ourselves. The memoirs is a return back into the self which re-generates the self back into an alive state. The memoirs requires the author to locate meaning and purpose and this is triggering but re-activating. It is this or hopelessness and then decay. Once meaning is found, aliveness returns from within and the self re-charges like a battery now on full power again! Novel writing works also, as we create characters that are projections of our own psyche, or aspects of ourselves that play out in story, so don’t feel you have to work within the parameters of non-fiction. In summary; this is the ability an author has – he can regenerate himself with etheric energy. With this, one must refrain from “assisting” others, which is normally – a method of disassociating from ones own responsibility; to engage in the process of writing the book. Focus, and take this seriously by dedicating two hours every single day to the process. As mentioned, if it is not a memoirs directly, it will be one in-directly as a novel or a piece of non-fiction: for everything in its essence is ‘autobiographical’. Make haste, go forth!
- To Discover Meaning and Purpose: Like Conan Doyle, we must picture ourselves as completely committed to this discovery. ‘Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalisation” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his will’. For those who are unfamiliar with Victor Frankl’s book, he wrote it to account for his time in Auschwitz, where as a prisoner he was able to observe things regarding the human condition. Following this, he began to practise Logotherapy, named aptly. Logos is a Greek word which denotes ‘meaning’ and it seems that meaning is like the petrol in the car. It moves us and without it, hopelessness sets in. Frankl writes that during his time interned, ‘We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets each individual … Long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naïve query which understands life as the attaining of some aim through the active creation of something of value. For us, the meaning of life embraced the wider cycles of life and death, of suffering and of dying.’ Frankl demonstrates that there is meaning in suffering and this is known as Dukkha in Buddhism, and the first of the Four Noble Truths. To discover meaning and purpose to the suffering of life creates the feeling of being alive which is a phenomenal paradox. A Taoist will teach, that when man is synchronised with his own core meaning, he will experience a flow state of timelessness, and this is his own sense of him being alive… which is the same as nature when it is being itself. When man is not synchronised, he does not experience synchronistic events as he is out of tune with his own harmonic and the harmonic of the Tao. He is like an out of tune piano, unable to play music. Subsequently he does not experience the feeling of being alive, or having a meaning to be here. He has no purpose and he becomes nihilistic and useless to himself, his community, and a society. Being accountable to our shifting moral responsibilities is meaningful and the discovery of this can happen when pen touches paper. To experience meaningfulness, significance and reason to be here is a birth right even though it can take a life time to claim.
- To Speak Truth: Writing allows a person to be specific and together with their presentation. We can, as writers, work without interruption and be to the point. There are fewer mediums that will allow the spoken word to be delivered in such a way. To speak truth is a noble and dignified move. It requires one to be vulnerable and courageous. The memoirs allows a person to speak truth forward without agenda or the desire to lure, manipulate, gain or seek validation. It is a wonderful process that requires us to expose our weaknesses and accept them, work on them and set new goals.
- To Seek Truth: The process has been described by Steven King as ‘uncovering the fossil’. Seek and ye shall find, we are told but the seeker must demonstrate the action of seeking through doing. Until these micro actions are made, no answer will reveal itself through feedback. The process of writing is therefore the process of uncovering the fossil. Just be prepared for the answers to be surprising ones. You can shake the apple tree, but oranges may fall. It’s not about judging what falls, it’s about maintaining a curious position as you continue to seek. Go forth! To seek and to desire truth is a dignified passion and the process of memoir writing is the seeker in action. Most people have unanswered questions, and the process of memoir writing reveals answers as the scattered and vague becomes ordered and obvious. Be prepared and ready for the ‘I knew it’ revelation to occur, as well as a few ‘Aha’ moments as you un-pack and re-organise your life through the writing of your life story.