“Writing your memoir can be an incredibly healing experience. I think this because a memoir is not an autobiography. It’s not a linear list of the things you’ve done in your life from start to finish.” — Janelle Hardy
IN THIS EPISODE:
- How memoir-writing can be a transformative and healing process
- Why Janelle tells her students to be open to being wrong about their life patterns
- Writing versus thinking about our past stories
- The good and bad about reframing past stories
- Janelle’s writing prompts to get us started
ABOUT MY GUEST:
Janelle Hardy is a writer, artist, and host of the Personal Mythmaking Podcast. For the past 5 years, she has integrated her expertise and training into supporting people in their creative healing work via the alchemy of transformational memoir-writing.
Though Janelle had an idyllic childhood, she was still affected by coming-of-age growing pains and the generational trauma wounds that her family carried. It wasn’t until she developed chronic fatigue and extreme shyness that she sought a healing modality that would address how her body held onto the trauma. She tried several methods until she realized the power of memoir-writing for full-body healing.
According to Janelle, writing our life stories allows us to tap into guidance that’s greater than ourselves. The process helps us make sense of our traumas and rewrite the narrative into an empowering, meaningful story.
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CONVERSATION:
We all have many experiences in our lives and not all of them are easy. And actually one of the reasons why people long to write their memoirs and put it off is because they’re scared that the painful parts of their life or the traumatic moments will re-traumatize them or overwhelm them if they start to write with them.
It’s inherently a challenging process. It’s also inherently incredibly rich and offers a great opportunity for healing. The reason I think it can be such a very healing process is that memoir is not an autobiography. It is not a linear list of the things you’ve done in your life from start to finish.
Memoir is about working with a meaning-making theme. And this is really where the personal mythmaking comes in. You choose a theme and then you organize and experiences in your life related to that theme.
Sometimes people start writing, thinking they’re really clear on the pattern. And I really encourage my students, especially if they’re very set on their idea of the pattern of their life, to be open to being wrong. Yes, the theme you’ve chosen is very compelling, but I wonder as you keep writing, if the story might be reframing itself. If there’s a meaning-making thread that’s more compelling, that has more depth. That’s more interesting than what your conscious mind has decided is the story. That’s usually where a memoir becomes mythic, becomes moving. Becomes less, “this is what I did, and this is what I did, and this is what I did in my life.” And more “all of these things worked together in my life to bring me to this point where I made this discovery about myself.”
If we take what we’re thinking about, our big grandiose vision, and we combine it with the technical skills that we’re slowly developing in whatever medium it is, then we start to have a relationship between big ideas and offering into the world. Not only for us to see, but for other people to see.
There’s this alchemy that happens in the creative process
Reframing is often a way to bypass emotions that are difficult and painful: sadness and grief, anger, rage. If we rushed to reframe in order to avoid feeling the feelings, then yes, we rewrite the story. But those feelings are still going to be waiting for us. The trauma is still humming away, stuck in our system. The reframing just gives us an illusion. You could call it toxic positivity.