When writing about life experiences, it’s important not to let so-called negative life story scare us or our readers off. I recently received a comment on my VibrantNation.com blog about 10 Ways to Use Your Life Story in Nonfiction Writing (which you can also read here) that got me thinking about the fact that memoir writers, personal essayists and those using their blogs for personal exploration must think carefully about how they deal with these difficult topics, which often make great fodder for their writing and can prove inspirational to their readers. On the other hand, these topics, when not handled well can cause writers to feel depressed and unable to write and cause readers to seek out more uplifting copy.
The key to handling difficult life story material involves turning most of the difficult situations in your life into positive messages through your writing, but if you are having difficulty delving more deeply into some life experiences because it feels hard and depressing to spend time rehashing the bad things that have happened, take heart. Out of this exercise often comes the best writing and the most helpful insights for you and your readers.
Also remember that you can provide a positive experience for your readers by writing about “negative” things that happen if you offer lessons learned or show how you became stronger in the process. In this way you help others through your retelling of your life story. Don’t just make it a story about the bad thing that happened to you, though; make it a story about your triumph and you will inspire others to triumph as well.
The key to this lies in keeping your “story” to just a small portion of the chapter, essay, blog post, etc. If you dwell in the you-know-what too long–if you spend too much time describing the negative stuff–you will lose your readers, unless you can do this in a manner that is interesting, engaging and much like creative nonfiction or fiction. (That’s why a good memoir reads like fiction.) Otherwise, keep the “story” to just a few paragraphs or a page at most, and make your inspirational message the “meat” of your manuscript. That’s how you’ll prevent yourself from getting lost in the scary dark events of your life as you try to write about them. You’ll also prevent your readers from wanting to run away from your life story.