How do I Write my Memoir if I’m Scared?

Sep 24, 2014Q & A with Mary

This is part of the several week series where I answer your questions. If you’d like a question answered here, please comment in the comment section and be watching this blog on Wednesdays for the answers. I’ll also be tackling some of these questions on the Uncaged Podcast, so stay tuned.

This week’s question has to do with writing our stories. It comes from Alena.

Hi Mary,

I read your story on your blog’s About page, and reading it again now makes me rejoice in your freedom and healing all over again. Your words resonate with me, so very much.

May I ask you a question? When you wrote your memoir, how did you handle the dichotomy of having a story of hard places and hope with still healing from it all?

I’m supposed to be writing a book proposal for my own memoir, but I’m not, yet. I just… I’m afraid. I am safe, happy, loved, loving, hopeful, and full of joy! But I am also navigating a relationship with a formerly-abusive, currently-manipulative-yet-healing-yet-so-blind mother, and I’m the oldest of five siblings, all of whom support the idea of this story, yet want me to change everything about it so none of the still-negative influences in or around our lives come back to bite. I don’t know how to deal with this – I believe God is giving me this opportunity, but I’m afraid of the consequences to my own life. I’m willing to accept them, but I feel very, very alone, and just without a clue to know how to even begin.

Maybe I’m just scared of failure. I don’t know.

Any words are welcome, but of course I totally understand if you don’t have time to reply. Bless. ♥


My response:

I had to have a significant amount of distance from the trial (decades) before I could write about it. A lot of healing took place in my life in those decades. Had I written my memoir in my twenties or thirties, I would’ve tried to punish people in the book instead of highlighting the redemptive hand of God. I also gave my editor carte blanche permission to say anything he wanted to say about my words, particularly if they were more depressing than uplifting.

I also had to do a test run, so to speak, before I wrote the memoir. I wrote a chapter about my story in another book, testing the waters. What I found was that folks would push against it. But I realized I would be okay even if someone didn’t agree or turned away because of what I wrote. That gave me the boldness to be able to write the whole memoir later (a few years after I wrote the chapter). If you have blogged about this already, that could be your testing the waters. I highly recommend that so you know whether or not you can weather the criticism. It will come. And it will be swift.

Have you written about this publicly yet? And what was the response? Or are you saving it all for the book? If so, you may need to talk this through with a trusted friend or counselor because there will be pushback.

All that to say, you have every right to tell your story. Totally. But don’t go into naive thinking that all will be well. It sounds like you are preparing yourself for the repercussions, and that is good. But even when you prepare, sometimes folks push back in ways you couldn’t have anticipated.


I am grateful I told my story because so many others have either been set free or now they no longer feel alone. It was absolutely worth doing, even though it hurt. That’s the kind of cost you’ll need to count.