In the previous post, guest blogger Samantha White explained how writing her memoir changed her life. This theme of writing as a transformational process is becoming a hot topic, and an increasing number of people are turning to writing specifically for its ability to heal, change and transform lives.
What I’ve rediscovered during my reading orgy is that this transformational power is contagious. When I read a story that changed the author’s life, by the time I close the covers, I’ve experienced some changes myself. I learn and grow right along with that author.
For example, one of the books I read is Mark Matousek’s memoir, Sex, Death, Enlightenment: A True Story. Reading this book was an adventure. In spite of the fact that lots of elements of our lives are black and white different, many of his insights and truths set off fireworks of recognition.
When I finished reading, I began to ponder a recent “conversation” with my Inner Critic about the memoir I’ve been working on for a couple of years. In that conversation, after IC finished ripping my work to shreds, he surprised me by giving me a bizarre instruction: I should “dive into the circle” of an ocular migraine I was experiencing at the time. This shimmering ring of light would lead me to the answers I need, he claimed. I thought I heard him mutter “I dare you!” as he faded from the scene.
Yeah, right. Woo woo! But hey – stuck writers are game for all sorts of weird tricks, no matter who suggests them. The time seemed right, so based on reverberations from Mark’s book, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and visualized that shimmering ring, then slid through it like a playful porpoise.
I surfaced in the middle of a situation that occurred early in my first year of school. At least a decade ago I had recognized that memory as a watershed moment. As with most other key girlhood memories, I’ve written all the juice out of that experience, I thought down to gray gristle. How could this be the answer to unblocking the stuck project that IC rightly deemed “bo-o-oring!”?
To my amazement, ripples generated by the stone of Mark’s story did their work and washed up an additional layer of discovery. The meaning of that event was even more profoundly significant than I’d yet realized. This is unexplored turf. That event is once more juicy and tantalizing, and the insight drips with timely promise.
Further details are beyond the scope of this post, but I mention it to show the value of shared insights. Regardless of how we go about clearing debris from our soul, writing about the experience can comprise a double blessing. Writing is a path to insight for many. Writing can strengthen and deepen it for those who follow other paths. When those stories are shared, they may spark further insight in readers. Mark’s story lit a candle in my life, and I have no doubt it has done so for tens of thousands of others over the years.
Write now: find a good memoir, perhaps one of Mark’s or Samantha Whites, or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Read it with a notepad at hand to record any insights it sparks. Journal or write stories based on those insights, or your thoughts about the book in general and how it might apply to you.