6 myths about writing that may be holding you back from starting and/or finishing
I want to talk about and clear up some of the biggest myths and misunderstandings when it comes to writing, creativity and memoirs!
Because here’s the thing – these myths are insidious, they’re pervasive AND almost everyone feels alone in believing them. What every single one of these myths do is keep people from moving forward into realizing their heartfelt dreams and transformational journeys.
I can also say I’ve struggled with most of these myths as well, so I can commiserate.
But what I won’t do is indulge you in continuing to believe them, because they are nasty little myths, designed to keep us small, contracted and immobile in the face of our creative projects and healing journeys. In the face of our own personal mythmaking.
So I’m here to tell you, they’re just myths that people use to hold themselves back (and sometimes people use them as an excuse to never take action!)
MYTH #1: You have to be a good writer to write. Especially to write a memoir.
Not true! Do you remember learning how to read and write as a child? We are born illiterate and language-less. We all have to acquire language skills, then learn to read and write.
How do you get better at writing? By writing consistently. And reading.
All you have to do is be willing to show up and write. It’s true, you’ll write embarrassing pieces. You’ll also write gorgeous, luminous brilliant pieces. And guess what? Even professional writers still write shitty pieces. That’s why we never publish first drafts – they’re called ‘shitty first drafts’ for a reason.
One of the most beautiful things about a fully realized writing practice is experiencing the full range of your writing capability – terrible, mediocre and great, depending on your day and the subject – and having the opportunity to revise, revise again, edit, work with editors, and continually improve on what you’ve written.
MYTH #2: You can’t write your memoirs because when you publish them you’ll hurt people’s feelings.
First, let’s remove this idea of publishing from the table first of all. Who says you have to publish? Or publish right away?
There are many reasons for writing memoirs, and many options for sharing them and not all of them include becoming a bestselling memoirist.
You can write a memoir that:
- no one will see but you
- no one will see but your mother and your daughter (my current plan)
- you won’t publish until certain people have passed away, because it’s not worth it to distress them by publishing it before they pass
- you self-publish and share with select people
- is published traditionally, with an agent and a publishing house
Second, it’s possible you will hurt people’s feelings. We can’t control how people react to us, our stories and recollections. It’s possible someone you think will be hurt won’t. And it’s possible someone whom you praised and hold in high esteem in your memoir will feel hurt for reasons you can’t comprehend.
We have to let go of the idea that we can buffer people from their feelings. Outside of being kind and truthful to ourselves, we don’t have any control over other people’s feelings.
Third, the most important thing when writing your memoirs is to be absolutely, ruthlessly, true to yourself and your own experience, and the meaning that gets imbued in the way you tell your story. This is your foremost concern and this does not require worrying about hurting other people’s feelings.
When starting your memoir writing, I recommend you write for yourself first, you don’t worry about feelings or censor yourself, and you keep your written stories close. Don’t worry about anything else before you’re finished your first draft.
After you’ve finished your first draft (a monumental task) then it’s time to star thinking about what you’re sharing, about whom, and what to do about it. But until you finish your first draft, your only focus should be on you, your story, and writing it down.
MYTH #3: You can’t write a memoir these days because it’s too hard to get published and personal writing is going out of style.
Please refer to my point about publishing in Myth #2. Who says you have to publish, or seek a publishing deal?? You don’t have to aim for that to have an amazing experience writing your memoir.
I agree that it’s a wonderful, momentous thing to have an agent and a publisher and to have the possibility of becoming a wealthy bestseller. The likelihood of that, however, is not something your personal lifestory writing should hinge on.
Who says you can’t write a memoir these days? No one but you. So stop believing that and start writing!
MYTH #4: You can’t write your memoirs if your story/experience is dark and scary and overwhelms you.
Have you read the memoirs being published lately? They’re intense. Many of them deal with poverty, hardship, addiction, abuse of all kinds, and great challenges.
You absolutely CAN write your memoirs if your life has been dark and scary. AND many memoirists remark on how healing and therapeutic it is to write about their experiences, especially when they’ve gone through hard things.
When it comes to the overwhelm – yes – that can feel immobilizing.
However, there are ways to get familiar with trauma and the nervous system and start to shift and release some of that pent up nervous system dysregulation so you don’t re-traumatize yourself as you write. If you need some support in that – my Art of Personal Mythmaking course is here for you (and enrolment for the next live round opens soon!)
Myth #5: ‘I can’t do it because I’m not educated/don’t have an MFA’
OR I can’t do it because I *should* be able to do it myself.’
Ok. “I can’t do it because I’m not educated” is along the same lines of Myth #1 – I can’t do it if I’m not a good writer. If you haven’t received a formal education, it doesn’t mean you have to wait to get one. Just start.
People with formal educations are not smarter or more capable or better writers than people without formal educations. They’ve just had life circumstances that have allowed them to get a formal education. You CAN do it, and I want you to do it. All you need is a pen and paper. Or keyboard. And a commitment to writing. And a commitment to not allowing self-doubt to take over. I’m rooting for you! We need your stories too.
Now, “I *should* be able to do it myself” is the myth of individualism and self-sufficiency and it it’s a myth that says asking for help is shameful. This is the myth that you have to be capable, and in charge and never *need* support. It’s also not true. Just start.
Even if you are, and even if you can be, you don’t have to be super-capable and self-sufficient or be ashamed of needing support. We ALL need support and guidance, no matter how capable we are. In fact, even if we’re the ‘strong one,’ especially if we’re the ‘strong one,’ we deserve to receive support. I’m rooting for you! We need your stories too.
Myth #6: I can’t do it unless I feel inspired, and I almost never feel inspired
Oh my. This whopper, again.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard this terrible myth.
It’s terrible because it’s the one that stops almost everyone from getting started, keeping going, and finishing.
There are many reasons why creative flow gets restricted, most of which can be shifted with some nervous system and deep self-healing work. However, the myth that we have to wait for the muse and wait for inspiration to strike is a deep disservice to the creative body of work that is waiting, desperately, in the background for YOU to clear space and commit to it.
There’s no doubt that the spark of inspiration can be a great productive tidal wave that supports incredible creative generation.
However, it’s equally true that carving out creative time in a consistent manner, and then committing to showing up to the page, the canvas, the project, regardless of how you feel, makes room for your creative work to come out.
You don’t have to feel inspired to create things of great beauty.
Imagine if carpenters waited to feel like they were in the mood for building a house! Houses would never get built.
Does anyone really want to do the drudge work that accompanies all creative work? No. Carpenters show up and build the houses day in and day out, regardless even of weather. They just show up and keep going. Every once in a while they step back and say “wow!!” and then they step forward into the work again, and keep going.
So you can just show up too. Take note of your mood, your resistance, and then set it aside. Ignore it. Show up anyways, start writing anyways, commit to turning the internet off, setting a timer for anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours, and be astonished that things happen, no matter how uninspired you felt.
Please stop believing that you can’t write unless you’re inspired! For me. And for you!
It really drives me crazy that so many people believe these myths and let that stop them from taking action towards their creative dreams.
Are you being held back by one of these beliefs too?
Now that you see they are just common misunderstandings, I don’t want you to let them stop you from writing your lifestories down, crafting them into a memoir, and pursuing your transformational healing journey.
P.S. One of my favourite ways to help people get started is with my FREE Outline Your Memoir workshop.
It’s two hours, super productive, and fun (we use fairytales as part of the outlining process!) You can sign up here.