When Should You Show Your Memoir to Family or Friends?

Never. At least not while you are working on it.

That is what my gut tells me to say to you, but then I know better. I know you seek approval. I know you want your loved ones to see your hard work. You want them to love, as much as you do, your efforts to put into words the complexities of your life. You yearn to show them your baby, your new creation, your fledgling memoir. th-1  Your first draft.

The trouble is, most spouses, parents, siblings, partners, and heart friends do not know the work it takes to turn root emotion and event into a story, nor the many stages necessary in the completion of a manuscript. Their comments, while at best might be benign, will not be of much help. And at worst, they could be absolutely not what you need to hear.

Dear friends finding themselves on the pages of your story, or your mother seeing herself there, a brother, aunt, sister, or husband, may react with shock, anger, or disgust. thAny of this reflected back to you is counterproductive. It can shut you down creatively, especially if you are new at this writing thing. (Remember those unhelpful teachers in second grade who panned your creative efforts?)

So, what we have here is either you get bland yet unhelpful feedback: “Oh Honey, it’s great. We love you.”  (“Yes, but what about the voice, or construction,” you should be clamoring.) Or, you’ll feel the full indignation of family and friends. Either way, this is not what you need to successfully complete a memoir manuscript.

While it is your urge–and rightly so–to share with those you care about and who care about you, it is a poor choice professionally to do so prematurely. Instead, if you must have feedback, find someone who understands language and story. Someone who is disassociated from your life experience. Someone who can guide you to the next stage of development. Ideally, this would be a more advanced memoir writer, or editor, but could also be a school teacher in your community, or at a local college, who understands not only storytelling technique, but also the tender ego of the artist. Be careful who you choose. You do not want just another version of your second grade teacher!

So, the more realistic answer to the question that opened this newsletter is: Show your memoir to family and friends only after you have worked on it with a writer, teacher, or editor you admire and who has a proven track record of guiding writers of memoir.

At that point, you’ll be more prepared to accept what is said as frosting on the cake, or naysayers’ gloom you can shed like water from the feathers of a duck.
FeatherShedding Water

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