One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other's stories.
-Rebecca Falls

From "Writing the Sacred Journey," by Elizabeth J. Andrew:

What are some of the grand themes of your life (abandonment, coming out fear, courage, letting go)? What are the questions that you ponder when you wake up at night (or that recur in your journal) that you wish you could ask others about at potlucks or over tea? Make a list. The grand themes of your life become the grand themes of your memoir.

Because memoir, by its very nature, is only a small window into the author's life, one of the delights of writing memoir is discovering the best frame for that window. I remember an after school art class in which we were given a view finder (a black cardboard mat of about six square inches with a one-inch square hole cut in the center). We walked into the woods holding our view finders in front of our faces, looking for a view. Eventually I found a mossy root that entered and exited that small window in a way that intrigued me, and I sat down with a sketchbook to draw it. Memoir is similar. A small scope is all that's necessary. Some memoirists choose to write only about their depression, or their travels, or their cultural identity. Spiritual memoirists choose their sacred journeys. You can select a significant portion of your life, or a few years, or a single day. Regardless of the frame, some material comes into focus and other material-the majrority of the woods, in fact-is left out of the picture. And that's okay. Despite my drawing's small scope, it conveyed the lush and creeping wooded environment. Whatever cross-section of life you choose to portray reveals the essence of the whole.

The peculiar and thrilling thing about framing is how much control it gives you, and also how little. As an author you decide what appears inside the frame and what does not. If you're most interested in exploring how your family's religious traditions affected your childhood spirit, you don't have to disclose your recent divorce or ninth grade sports injury...

Although you control what is visible in your memoir and what remains hidden, ultimately the content is not your decision. The story itself has the final say and often dictates directions you would rather not go...You may find your real story isn't simple or happy. Although memoir allows many creative choices regarding what you write and how you write it, the story always holds you accountable.

Spiritual memoir demands the truth. The story of a spiritual life has a will of its own, and you write in its service.

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