A 30-something Black woman sits in a sunny cafe and writes about her life

Life writing is about giving pause to the self to deal with this ‘mound of reflections’ and review one’s life from a critical distance. Simply put, it is nonfiction writing on a person’s life and experiences reconstructed from memory and linked to a larger theme of universal concern.

Life writing encompasses a variety of genres – from autobiography and memoir to diaries and journals, as well as oral testimonies and eyewitness accounts. Writing short memoir pieces and personal essays proved most therapeutic, helping me reflect on my situation, accept it, reach out to people through it and, finally, heal.

To cope with your trauma and heal from feelings of isolation, uncertainty, depression and loss of control, I suggest you try writing about your life too. You needn’t launch into a full-length memoir if you haven’t attempted the genre before; instead, you might like to start with short fragments in the form of a personal essay. Later, you can string them together thematically or chronologically to make a full-length memoir. If not, you would still have written the one essay that will stand on its own.

Each step in the process, listed below, will teach you key skills. By applying these skills to your life, you can own your trauma. By owning it, you’ll find the strength to overcome it. What’s more, by the end of the process, you will have a completed piece of writing that you can share with your readers or even try to publish.

Read the guide on Psyche.

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