The Crying Memoir

In my writing classes we often read work aloud. This term, several young women have sniffled their way through their memoir homework assignments, puncutating phrases with tearful sighs or pausing to regain composure. And we barely know each other. One of the two male students was so uncomfortable with the show of emotion, he dropped the class, saying he wasn’t signed up for therapy. Diff’rent strokes, I guess. But the boo-hooing was genuine. To me, it was a sure sign that the writers were willing to be honest, up to the challenge of probing (sometimes) painful memories. To Leah May, Kaija, Shannon and Cathy: In Memoir, True Emotions are necessary for reader connection. Emotion makes readers care. Don’t buck up and then find you’re stifled. Cry all you want.

Writing Tip for Today: Staying in control isn’t going to help a writer uncover the truth, or dig deeper in search of meaning. Stoicism is for bean counters. When you draft, allow yourself to feel deeply. You can always dial back emotions which stand in the way of communication. I’ll be bringing a box of tissues next week.

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3 comments on “The Crying Memoir

  1. His loss Linda. It’s some of best therapy to be had. I know that I shed a few tears during your classes. It’s a good sign if emotions are stirred, especially if it’s a stranger’s emotions.
    Emotions are part of the process. I’m working on a short story now that, I know, will have me wiping tears off my keyboard before I’m done. But they’re healthy, productive tears. I love that part of it. (I cry easy though) I think a bit of it goes back to my experience on stage. If I could move an audience to tears, then I’d done my job well.

  2. Emotionless. Writing.

    I know both words but I’ve never thought of them together. On the too-rare occasions when someone says my writing moved them to tears I think “Good, I did what I wanted to do, I got my message across.”

    No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.

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