13 Helpful Tips on Writing your Adoption Memoir

For too long the world of adoption has been shrouded in guilty silence, secrets and lies. It is time to tell YOUR story. I want to share with you how to heal yourself, and inspire others, by writing your adoption memoir. These tips are intended to aid members of the adoption triad in their search and discovery of speaking their truth through the written word.

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5 thoughts on “13 Helpful Tips on Writing your Adoption Memoir

  1. Part I: “Preparing for Your Literary Journey” … Emotions as a result of writing:

    !) Give yourself the gift of remembering…it is truly cathartic.

    2) Your memories will unearth feelings that have long been buried. Some good – some bad.

    3) Acknowledge and accept these feelings of hurt, guilt, anger & pain, for they will lead you to appreciate the good times.

    4) Writing your truth will validate your feelings.

    5) Speaking your truth will validate them further.

    6) Once validated, you will be surprised by how well you handle these old and, sometimes, troublesome emotions.

    Part 2: “Gathering Facts, Recollections & Memories” … Choose a memory, any memory!

    The easiest way to begin is to first choose a memory. Or, perhaps, a defining moment in your life. It doesn’t matter at which point in time you begin. You can even begin with today…the day you decided to write your memoir by telling what prompted you to do so. The sky is the limit!

    If, at any time in your life, you kept a journal, now is the time to search it out. In most instances, your words from years ago will provide your memory with vivid past images and recollections.

    Do not feel you must write in chronological order. Write about whatever moves you on any particular day.

    For example: if it’s raining, you may have a vivid memory of an incident that took place on a rainy day. Then, if and when that memory leads you somewhere else in time, embrace the opportunity to write about that new day, always being mindful to label and keep separate each “day in the life” so you can easily go back to add more thoughts as the remembering process continues. Remember, you are always free to go back and add new facts, recollections and memories.

    As an exercise, write down your most vivid memories.

    Part 3: “Write, write, and then, write some more!”

    The more you write about your past the more the memories will come flooding back.

    Be certain to write down every detail you manage to recall, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at the time; regardless of whom or what it involves. If the thought comes to mind, it must have made an impression on you in some way and will, more than likely, come up again later in your story, explaining why it had impacted you so in the first place.

    This is how a true story is built … it just happens, just like life itself!

    Exercise: List 10 memoriable days/events in your life…

    Part 4: “Research: Well worth your time”

    Playing Private Investigator is a must! If you are shy and laid-back you will never advance beyond Chapter One. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how digging into your past will make you want to dig even deeper.

    If your memories are a bit foggy, ask for the recollections of family members and friends about specific times, events or places. Many times their words can trigger a wealth of forgotten memories.

    One of the most stimulating exercises is to scour your family’s old photo albums. In many cases, just the sight of a long lost relative or special place or event will bring back a flood of wonderful or, in some cases, not so wonderful memories.

    Don’t stop simply because these memories initially upset you, make you cry or bring up deep, buried emotions. Crying and feeling emotional is the very fuel that feeds the sincere sentiment of a good memoir.

    Scrap booking can also be helpful. It will help to set up a timeline as you outline and organize your facts. Not to mention, it will serve as a handy visual aide while writing.

    Research the Internet about the date in time in which your story takes place. Relating past, current events will create more interest for the reader, as well as giving your story more intrigue and credibility.

    Investigate the adoption laws during that time? Was closed adoption the only option?

    Was abortion an option? Was it in the time before or after the Roe vs. Wade decision?

    Research the town where you were living during this time. What fascinating detail can you share with your readers to keep them interested? Can you, somehow, tie that fact into your life and story?

    Some helpful suggestions…

    Birth mothers: • Research the town where you were sent away. • Is the unwed mother’s home still in operation? If so, be sure to visit if possible, and face your demons head on. It will make for powerful, emotion driven text. • What were your instincts about your child and the adoptive parents during the years you were separated?

    Birth fathers: • Sharing the amount of information you were privy to before, during, and after the birth of your child will be beneficial to your readers. • Were you involved in any part of the decision making or left out in the cold? How did that make you feel? • Seek out the truth about the mother of your child and her experience. What were your feelings towards her? • Be honest in relating your true feelings upon learning this information – Surprise? Betrayal? Anger?

    Part 5: “Music is magical”

    Use the powerful quality of music to recall a specific event in time that a special song might help to evoke. A familiar song can, and will, suddenly bring back memories, scenes and moments you have barely thought of until they are seemingly grabbed out of nowhere by that melodious tune. When this happens, your “sense-memory” is triggered.

    Once you consciously extract these memories from your mind, relive them. Clearly write down what you hear, feel, see, and smell. Make the scene as vivid for your reader as it is in your mind. Now that’s putting your sense memories to work!

    For example:
    • How did singing along with the words of this song, touch or influence your life?
    • Are you different now because of the message those words left you with so long ago? If so, how?
    • Name the title and, perhaps, even the artist who recorded it, to allow your readers the pleasure of enjoying the music right along with you.
    • If you do it right, they will find themselves smiling, tapping their foot, or humming and swaying along to the music as they read your thought provoking words.
    • Bring the reader into your very thoughts while you listened to the words and what they meant to you.
    • What story did those words tell?
    • Was it your story?
    • Describe what you were feeling while dancing to that special song.
    • What dance were you doing? The cha-cha? A romantic slow dance? Jitterbug? Or, The Twist with Chubby Checker?
    • Take the reader right out there with you onto the dance floor. By this time, they will be ready to dance!
    • Who were you with during the playing of this song?
    • Did that person play an important role in your life? Are they still in your life today?
    • Where they your mentor, your friend or, perhaps, even your lover?
    • Did they have a voice you will never forget, and why? Describe it.
    • Does listening to this song still make you think about them, even all these years later?
    • Can you still smell the scent of their perfume/cologne? The feel of their touch?

    “One memory often leads to another”

    • What were you wearing, and why were you wearing it?
    • Describe the dress of the times; it will help lead you to more memories.
    • For instance: Rock bands had a huge influence in the fashion industry.
    • Did you relate to and dress like Elvis? The Beatles? Stevie Nicks? James Taylor?
    • Describe the scene. What did the place look like? Smell like? Feel like?
    • Most importantly, how do these memories make you feel today?
    • Are there any regrets or would you do it all over again?

    Exercise: List the songs that never fail to bring you back in time…

    Part 6: Searching your hidden soul – Yes, it’s in there … somewhere

    • The only way to do this is to put yourself right back into that specific state of mind, place and time you are writing about to achieve the interest and intrigue your story telling deserves…relive and feel the day!
    • What was the season? The weather? The time of day?
    • What inspired you back then that may have made a difference in your life?
    • Most times, did you follow your heart or do what was expected of you? Why?
    • Did your instincts direct you? If so, how? why? when?
    • Never fear to allow yourself to fully feel your raw emotions – Love, Joy, Peace, Hate, Fear, Anger, Anxiety, Panic – that may have motivated you.
    • Express these emotions/memories with great clarity. Grab your readers from the very start.

    Part 7: Show, don’t tell!

    For example:
    • If you were a teenager in this memory, use your teenage voice to better get your point across.
    • If you were angry, “show” your anger with powerful, moving words.
    • Visualize your surroundings. Make the reader feel as if they are standing right there with you.
    • Describe in detail the location in this memory, whether it be in your childhood home, place of work, schools or even the beach you frequented.
    • Make the reader feel, smell and sense everything about the setting. For example, if you were at the beach, help them to hear the roar of the ocean, the smell of the salty sea air, the call of the seagulls flying by.
    • If necessary, physically visit the places and people who figure into your story. Revisiting a location may stir memories that wouldn’t have otherwise come up.
    • Don’t be shy. A family member or a friend’s take on any particular day, time, or event-gone-by may differ greatly from yours, providing you with additional, valuable information. Ask!

    Part 8: Memoir/Non-fiction is a delicate genre

    • Your story holds the intricate details of your life. Though uniquely your own, you must remember that these details are shared with others, who might disagree with you about any particular day or event in YOUR life and then try to make things difficult for you.
    • As much as he/she certainly has the right to object, never forget that you own your story. They must be made to understand that everyone has a different impression of life’s events.
    • If you are writing the truth and that truth adds value to the telling of your story don’t be concerned with what others might think.
    • Don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from writing and/or publishing your story.

    Part 8: Expand, don’t elaborate!

    • Remember, this is a TRUE story … YOUR true story … it is what it is.
    • That in itself is what makes it unique.

    Part 9: Rewrite or “tip-toe” around anything that might be construed as offensive

    • Don’t let the reactions of your family and friends stop you from writing if you have a compelling experience or story to share.
    • Be sensitive to their feelings, but not at the price of being untrue to yourself or to the integrity of your story.
    • This doesn’t mean to lie or to omit important facts, just be aware of the manner in which you relate them.
    • Worrying about what others think will keep you blocked and unproductive.

    Part 10:

    • Try to “see” the unfolding events from another’s point of view and, perhaps, express that as a possible motivation for their actions.
    • Include dialogue. The added perspective will round out your story, and add credibility.
    • Elicit sympathy, or empathy, by making the reader feel you’ve been honest and fair in the telling of your story. Fair means addressing more than one side. Remember: if your reader doesn’t sympathize, you’ve lost him or her.
    • If you aren’t sure whether your comments are derogatory or could be considered slanderous, consult a literary or libel attorney before you publish.

    Part 11: Just do it! … Before it’s too late

    • No need to wait for everyone to die or, worst case – YOURSELF, before you start writing your story.
    • If there is one thing we each own, it is the story of our lives, our own individual memories.

    Part 12: Editing: A necessary evil

    • As much as you will fall in love with, and become attached to, every word you write, it doesn’t mean they fit into the story.
    • Be willing to let go of irrelevant or redundant text. Your readers will appreciate it!

    Part 13: Finally, and once again …
    Give yourself the gift of remembering

    • Take time to reminisce. You may even find yourself smiling!
    • Embrace the past, even as hard as it may seem. After all, the person you have become is the result.
    • Years have passed, you have grown…it will be Ok.

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