Mary Karr spent some time in a mental institution after she stopped drinking. When speaking of that time, she notes that her “writing took a great leap forward…[she] was more clear and more openhearted, more self-aware, more suspicious of [her] own motives."
In The Art of Memoir, Karr describes memoir as a primitive form, available to all of us if we are willing to go there, to dig deeply, to suffer a little while we explore what we have learned along our journey. She urges us to resist perfection, to write the truth, to “step into the skin of the person you were then, and see through her eyes,” and to trust that the memories that haunt us are the ones that need to find their way to the page.
Learn how to develop your themes, how to see the story through to the end, how to write to and past one's inner critic. Karr offers tips such as writing by hand, which comes through the body differently than through the keyboard. Some of us have suspected the same.
But whether one is writing or simply living one's story, Karr's most freeing advice urges us to allow for chaos and to let our stories find us, to close our eyes and envision the scenes, to not force but rather to get out of the way of what wants to come through. Karr insists that we trust ourselves and our stories, as well as their power to change the life of both writer and reader.