Until quite recently, I coached writers, especially those working on memoirs, to “dig deep”—to get to the heart of their stories and those core experiences and truths. To take us into their learnings, transformations, and aha moments. As I spoke these words about the process of getting to that raw, honest, authentic material, I found that asking them to “dig deep and excavate” didn’t feel or sound inviting. In fact, it felt intimidating and critical.
I noticed that I even had a physical reaction to these words. I tuned into the constriction I felt in my own gut as I spoke about digging and excavating. Yet, I couldn’t figure out why. After all, don’t we have to “dig deep” to get to our core truths and emotions?
The answer I finally came to was, “No.” In exploring my own thoughts and feelings around these words, I found that what was not sitting right with me was the imagery they evoked. What came to mind were images of toil and struggle and even confinement and constriction. They felt judgmental (as if I were saying to the person, “You’re not doing it right. You’re not doing enough!”) The words felt harsh and quite frankly, masculine. They represented doing, going, pushing, and pulling—lots of energy done with force. They didn’t speak of being gentle with ourselves or allowing for flow. They didn’t acknowledge the ebb and flow of emotions or the awarenesses and insights we usually experience as we get in touch with the events and transformational processes within our lives. They didn’t speak of our need to sometimes pause.
That’s when it hit me!
Maybe it’s not about going down to the depths (of despair) or “hoisting up” that which we are not yet able to explore. Maybe it’s more of a side-to-side process, a rolling and flowing process, rather than a deep-down one. And what came to me in that aha moment was the “in between.” In memoir writing, we are called to write about the “in betweens” of our life experiences—all that happens in between the events themselves and our transformation. When we explore those “in betweens,” we do get to the heart of the matter. We get to the core, the raw, the authentic.
If we’re truly exploring the in between we’re looking at all we experienced, felt, thought, did, and all that led to our transformation, to our learning and to new understanding. And we are permitted to explore the in between when it feels right—as we are ready. The in between can be painful. It can be filled with sadness, grief, anger, fear, and more. Yet, if we allow for a gentle process, we can be with all that is uncomfortable as we are ready and able to do so. There is no “must do it now” or “need to do more.” There is simply the invitation to speak our truths with the intent to do no harm to ourselves or others and to write the “in betweens” as we are able to be with them.
That’s the core understanding I came to. It’s about being able to be with the in between and then being willing to first look at it ourselves. Finally, it’s being willing to share it with others. When we write with those intentions, our raw truth and authenticity will be revealed, and through that process others will be invited to their own transformation as well.