Brain Slowdowns

One of the things I warn my memoir clients about in particular is brain slowdowns or the sense of being constantly distracted. When you go back to events that are difficult to process, a traumatic childhood or a life-changing event, and you try to piece it back together, either just using memories or using old journal entries/on-line posts, there is a psychic cost to this work. You are going to feel it and that is normal. You may frequently feel like you are “getting no work done.” Or be angry at yourself because you have “writer’s block.”

That is not what’s going on. All the stuff I say to people about avoiding writing being about the fear of failure—it’s slightly different here. You’re not trying to avoid work. You may not even be afraid of writing your experience down (although you might be afraid of that, too and that would also be normal). There’s just a lot of work going on in the subconscious as you process old stuff that you’ve kind of fridged for a few years in order to get on with your life and possibly just to survive moving into a new life you never wanted.

So my best suggestion in this case is to be gentle with yourself. Set small goals and expect even those goals to be painful to meet. Expect to feel heavy a lot of the time. Also expect to find yourself distracted as you try to do normal work tasks or going about your regular routines. You may find yourself waking in the middle of the night from dreams of the past you thought you’d put away. You may find yourself standing in the middle of the grocery store, having completely forgotten what it is you came down this aisle to buy.

Just be assured that this is all part of the process. Keep going. It will take a lot more time to write this kind of memoir than any other kind of book. Probably years. Possibly decades. That doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Actually, it means you’re doing it right. Because you have to become the person who can write the book as well as doing the actual typing of words into the computer. And the first part is a lot more difficult than the second.

Published by Mette Ivie

I'm a national bestselling author, All-American triathlete, Princeton PhD and mother of five amazing kids. And I'm here to teach you how to talk back to the brain that is telling you to quit before you fail. I'm here to up your game as a writer and as a human. I teach skills on writing, but more than that, I teach you how to take risks and write more deeply, more humanly, and to become a better human yourself.

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