Writing a memoir WITH a brain injury

Disclaimer: This is a short post because I did have some things to talk about but I have not been feeling like being on the computer/iPad (definitely TBI-related).

I wanted to do a writing update even though I haven’t been writing much, however, I did have some writing tips I wanted to share.

This little gif of a person throwing their typewriter in frustration is really more about writer’s block. And I wouldn’t necessarily qualify what I am experiencing as writer’s block. It’s more brain fatigue and specifically Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) fatigue. I’m experiencing a prolonged period of time when being on any device with an electronic screen is making my brain feel very fatigued. I am trying hard to be good to my brain. Which means no late night writing sessions which is making the memoir progress slow and the blog light on content. Then, why not write during normal daytime hours, you ask? Well, mainly because I am feeling so scattered, fatigued, and incapable of coherent thoughts during the day. However, if I give into my night owl 🎑 🦉 tendencies my brain 🧠 suddenly snaps to attention around 2 or 3 in the morning and I have the urge to write (and binge on sugary food). Well, I’m trying to stop the night owl tendencies and sugar/food late-night eating. So blogs have been late and the memoir has been untouched. However, I have been working on my memoir in an untraditional sense. I wanted to share the two ways I have been working on it untraditionally.

Learning about Memoirs

A few weeks ago I attended a class on memoir writing on Zoom. It was free and open to the public (if you pre-registered). It was hosted by the St. Louis Publishers Association (I’m not in St. Louis or Missouri but I found it on meetup.com).

The Zoom session I attended hosted by the St. Louis Publishers Association (image from their site).

Nellwyn Lampert presented “How to Write a Memoir that Wins Over Publishers and Readers.” She is the author of one published memoir (“Every Boy I Ever Kissed”) and is a freelance writer and book coach (visit her site here). She laid out a four-step plan (kind of) on how to work through your memoir. She gave a lot of usable advice about identifying your target audience and delivering your key message. The most important tidbit I took away for right now was to not avoid like memoirs. Read them now to do your “comps” or comparison of competitors. That made sense to me and I am pretty confident in my voice and story, so avoiding reading other brain injury memoirs seems foolish. Lampert said that reading “Comps” lets you know what is out there, what has been done, and lets you figure out how you can do it differently and in a way that is more authentic to you and your voice. So, I am plowing ahead with reading other memoirs about brain injury.

Drawing a visual outline

I decided to lean into my artistic tendencies and draw my outline. I had done that before but now I am fleshing it out more in pictures in one of my sketchbooks. It’s fun. Not technically writing but it really is and will be very helpful in the future.

This was my visual mind map memoir outline from a while ago. I am now fleshing it out in one of my sketchbooks.

Give yourself a break

I have always been too hard on myself. And writing a memoir is hard work and then add to that I’m writing about an injured brain with that very injured brain and writing a memoir is more challenging. I haven’t really admitted that until now. Each struggle I have isn’t a failing, it’s just another sentence in my memoir!

I found this breaking pencil visual on Pixabay and made this cute graphic with something I have to tell myself frequently.

Daily Doodle Project Highlight

It’s a cartoon!

A Selby Sweetie Conclusion


6 thoughts on “Writing a memoir WITH a brain injury

  1. During my husband’s illness I did not have the bandwidth to write. But guess what! I was “percolating” and that time off was valuable, I see a new path forward. Maybe the same for you ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 💗 Thanks for that comment! I’m so glad to hear you were percolating during that awful time! Yes, I think our brains do a lot more work in the background of living our lives than we realize. Especially writer brains. Even my injured writer brain! ✍🏻 🧠 ❤️

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  2. Laura, I’m sorry your brain has been making life so difficult lately. Have you read “Over my Head” by Claudia L. Osborn? It’s too old to be a comp for you (comps should be in the last 5 years at most) but a great read. The author was a doctor who got a brain injury. I’m sure she had a ghostwriter, but still, it might be a good example for you. Another thought- do you know about graphic novels? It’s storytelling–fiction and nonfiction– told through comics, although I’ve seen examples where the graphics are more of a supportive role to the prose. https://www.buffalolib.org/get-graphic/what-graphic-novel I wish I could give you an example, but I’m “drawing” a blank, lol. Is drawing less taxing on your brain? Could you tell your story in pictures? Just a thought. Hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Good suggestions, as always, Karen! I had heard of that book and will be doing more drawing to help me develop stories, thanks for that link. I know about Allison Bechdel as a graphic memoirist (Fun Home) but she does paneled storytelling (like a comic strip) so I will check out your suggestions. ❤️

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