How do writers discern what to include in a memoir? This author explores how she navigated the balance between maintaining privacy and being vulnerable

The art of memoir writing often demands a high level of vulnerability from its authors. The memoir genre beckons writers to delve deep into personal memories, extracting raw emotions and intimate moments to share with the world. However, the act of baring one’s soul on paper brings forth a myriad of concerns, primarily the balance between storytelling and maintaining privacy.

Navigating the delicate balance between maintaining privacy and being vulnerable in storytelling is a common challenge for authors, especially when writing memoirs. Here’s how author Marnie Marmet managed this balance and some advice for other writers facing a similar struggle:

  1. Reflecting on Personal Moments

“When writing about personal experiences, such as memories involving my children, I took a nostalgic journey by revisiting old journals and photos. This not only helped me recapture the essence of those moments but also allowed me to connect with the emotions and details that made those memories special,” Marmet explains.

  1. Addressing Difficult Moments

One area of writing a memoir that may be challenging for some authors is choosing difficult moments to include or not. For Marnie Marmet, her editor helped to push her to extract raw emotions and convey her journey to her readers.

“Not all memories are pleasant, and some chapters of my book delved into challenging and emotional experiences. My editor, Kate, played a crucial role in helping me explore these moments more deeply. Her guidance pushed me to extract the raw emotions from these experiences, even though it was difficult at times. This process allowed me to convey the authentic emotional journey to my readers,” states Marmet.

  1. Concern for Family and Privacy

With memoirs, the lines between the personal and public can blur. For Marmet, the thought of how her family, especially her parents, would perceive her work was a pressing concern. 

Marmet shares, “One of my primary concerns was how my family, particularly my parents, would feel about my book. It’s natural to worry about the impact of sharing personal stories about loved ones. To address this, I aimed to strike a balance between telling my story truthfully and respecting my family’s privacy.”

  1. Gradual Sharing and Support

Initially, Marmet held her writings close to her chest, sharing them with only a select few. 

“During my first year of writing, I kept my work mostly to myself. As the stories evolved into a memoir, I gradually began sharing them with my family. Fortunately, they were incredibly supportive and understanding, which eased many of my initial concerns. Their encouragement bolstered my confidence in sharing my authentic experiences,” states Marmet.

For authors who are grappling with what to share in their books, Marnie has some key pieces of advice.

  • Start with Honesty: Begin by being honest with yourself about your motivations for sharing your story. What do you hope to achieve? Knowing your purpose can guide your decision-making.
  • Reflect on Impact: Consider the potential impact of your words on the people mentioned in your book. Are there sensitive subjects that might hurt or embarrass them? Think about how you can navigate these areas with sensitivity.
  • Seek Consent: If you have reservations about certain content, have open and honest conversations with the people involved. Seek their consent or input, and listen to their concerns.
  • Stay True to Your Story: Ultimately, your memoir should reflect your authentic experiences and emotions. Don’t compromise your story, but find ways to present it respectfully.
  • Consider Alternatives: If you’re uncomfortable sharing specific details, consider using pseudonyms or altering identifying information to protect privacy.
  • Trust Your Instincts: Remember that finding the balance between vulnerability and privacy is a personal journey, and it may evolve as you progress in your writing. Trust your instincts and surround yourself with a supportive network of individuals who can provide guidance and encouragement throughout the process. 

The act of memoir writing is akin to walking a tightrope, demanding a delicate equilibrium between vulnerability and privacy. As writers traverse this intricate landscape, guidance from seasoned authors like Marnie Marmet becomes invaluable. Her journey and experience in writing her own memoir,  “My Song, Unleashed,” exemplifies the possibilities of raw, emotional storytelling while still upholding the sanctity of personal boundaries. For all aspiring memoirists, Marmet’s experiences serve as a testament that with introspection, respect for those in our narratives, and unwavering honesty, one can craft compelling memoirs that resonate with readers without compromising the privacy of the cherished memories they hold.