Heart Speak: Advice on Writing Your Truth

Welcome to our memoir writing advice column.
Send us your struggles. We’ll help you work your way through them.  

Writing a memoir requires a fearless, open heart.

As memoirists, we are told to write about what keeps us up at night. We are told to say the things we fear most, and to prepare to disappoint those we love. We are told to turn tragedy into art and to do it in a way that not only transforms ourselves, but that maybe even shapes the world.

If you are embarking on this journey, you already have the courage to excavate the truth from your circumstances and the fortitude to finish. But what do you do when your writing does keep you up all night? When it does invoke fear and disappoint those you love? How do you keep going when revisiting your heartache breaks your heart all over again? And what about the writing process itself–the time when you are surrounded by a sea of pages, searching for the right scenes, fine-tuning your narrative arc, developing your characters, and honing your voice?

Fear not, brave writers. Heart Speak is here to help.

Through our writer-driven advice column, we are generating the wisdom that will help us all persevere through the telling of our true stories. Send us your writing-related questions, be they matters of craft, motivation, creativity, publication, or the heart. We’ll help you harness the power of your personal story and love your work to the next level.

Each month we’ll publish thoughtful responses to selected submissions. The best letters are:

  • Brief. No more than 400 words.
  • Specific. They contain a clear question about the writing craft and/or writing life.
  • Well written. Think Dear Sugar letters made out to a professional memoir coach.
  • Relatable. The subject matter appeals to a broad audience.

All set? Send us your questions.

9 + 11 =

Disclaimer: The advice given in this column is intended for educational and entertainment purposes. It is not designed to be therapy or to replace advice given by a helping professional. 

About our Heart Speak columnist: Lisa Cooper Ellison is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach with a background in mindfulness and mental health. She teaches experiential seminars on grief and forgiveness as well as classes on memoir and creative nonfiction at WriterHouse, a nonprofit writing center in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work and life story have appeared or are forthcoming on NPR’s With Good Reason, and in The Kenyon Review,  Huffington PostThe Rumpusand The Guardian among others. A fan of creating playlists that include artists like Miles Davis and Cryptic Slaughter, she is currently working on two books. In the Land of Flood and Slaughter is a coming-of-age memoir about believing you’ve escaped a fate only to have it find you. Lucky Me is a memoir about how traveling with a heavy metal band into a country that committed genocide gave her the courage to live after her brother’s suicide. To learn more, check out her website: www.lisacooperellison.com