Fearless Memoir

How to overcome fear, unworthiness, and self-doubt and finally write a memoir. By Brad Wetzler, award-winning author, editor, and book writing coach.

Why Writers Need More Self-Compassion and How to Cultivate It

As a book writing coach, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to help my clients. Sometimes ideas come to me while watching Netflix. 

I recently watched Bruce Springsteen on Broadway on Netflix. Springsteen’s playing is rousing. His storytelling, more so. But the show’s true gift is watching Springsteen unmask himself. He bashes myths about himself that he spent a lifetime creating. He even speaks about his struggles around mental illness. A fascinating moment happens ninety minutes into the two-hours-plus show when Springsteen talks about the magic that happens between members of a rock band. I suspect he’s talking more broadly about the magic that happens when we enter a relationship with another human or when we create art. Here’s a quote: When you join a band, “there is a communion of souls, and a quest, the quest has begun, and adventure is undertaken, and you ride shotgun. The principles of math get stood on their...

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How a Daily Writing Practice Can Lead Us Back to Our True Self

Writing is more like yoga than you might think.

Both disciplines require learning specific rules and vocabularies. Yoga has its 8 Limbs, one of which is asana, or the physical poses that most Westerners consider to be yoga. Each asana asks the yogi to hold the body in a specific and precise way. By focusing on the mechanics of the pose and sitting in the uncomfortableness, we see ourselves in a mirror. We learn things about ourselves.

Writing–crafting sentences out of symbols composed of curved and straight lines–is similar. When we write, we see ourselves in a mirror and learn things about ourselves. Things that we couldn’t see before we did the writing.

Both disciplines can lead to waking up from the trance that afflicts us all when we get consumed by the demands of work, home, and society. When we do yoga or write, we experience ourselves in deeper and more subtle way. This isn’t spiritual mumbo jumbo. We actually become more human.

Both...

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Short Memoir: How to Stop Being a Spiritual Seeker and Become a Spiritual Finder

Transformation is hard. It takes work to break old habits and create new ones. We must stay diligent at "doing the work." Yoga, meditation, self-inquiry, and therapy are methods that, when practiced regularly, can lead us back to our true selves. But I've learned that there are pitfalls to focusing too much on "the work." Sometimes I catch myself being too diligent at doing the work. I forget about the other path to transformation: self-acceptance. When we focus too much on "the work," we can easily become self-aggressive and escapist. As important as the work is, we must accept, maybe love, the person we already are.  We are all we have, right. And wanting to be different is a trap that keeps us separate from our true selves. 

For example, I am a lifelong seeker. I seek knowledge, wisdom, connection, even God. I read books about spirituality and self-growth. I travel to experience new places and new people. But I suspect seeking is...

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Short Memoir: How Bhakti Yoga Brings Us Back to Our Hearts

Spiritual practices are an important way I stay connected to my deepest self. Yoga and meditation are my go-to practices. When I practice consistently, I do better at staying grounded in the present moment. And when I stay grounded in the NOW, I am slower to react to difficult situations and people, and I'm better able to respond to life's myriad challenges with patience and compassion to others and myself.  Spiritual practices are one way that I show up for myself with self-love.

Like yoga and journaling, I think of chanting as a loving knife, a knife that is able to cut through habit and resistance to the soft, beating heart within all our chests.

On a recent summer night, my friend and I drove to a retirement home to attend a kirtan led by Benjy and Heather Wertheimer. Kirtan means “to chant together,” and kirtans are a common practice in Bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion. No matter what you believe, chanting with other humans feels good in the...

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Yoga and My Quest for True Self

A consistent yoga practice can be powerful. It’s like standing in front of a mirror and staring at your reflection. This can be frightening for anybody, but for a middle-aged man it is especially so.

First, you see things that surprise or shock you. Is my belly really that lumpy? Is my hair that gray? With time, these judgments soften some. But then it can be easy to swing too far in the opposite direction. “On second thought, I don’t look too bad for 52. My stomach may not be a six-pack, but look at those arms! They’re coming along! All those chaturangas I’ve been doing have yielded some nice deltoids. I don’t look half-bad. I can add some sit-ups, but otherwise, Brad, you’re looking good!”

But if you stand at the mirror longer still, your feel-good thoughts fade, too. If you’re lucky, you land, finally, in self-acceptance. You accept the good with the bad and the handsome with the ugly. But more likely, you will overshoot...

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Short Memoir: On Finding Your Author Voice

I want to tell you about a book that, each time I open it, makes me a better writer. You probably haven’t heard of it, or of the author, Ted Solotaroff. It’s not a best-seller like Bird by Bird or a popular favorite like Stephen King’s On Writing. In fact, I’ve never seen another copy of this essay collection other than the coffee-stained, dog-eared one I own. But this book—just one essay in it, actually—is my savior. It’s my savior during dark nights of the soul, when I lurch, when I desire to say something meaningful and truthful, when I wish to say it in MY own unique and original voice.

I bought my copy of A Few Good Voices in My Head at a used bookstore in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood during my graduate school years. I don’t recall the shop’s name, but walking its aisles was a Saturday afternoon ritual, especially during the dead of a brutal Chicago winter when the snow flies...

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How to Cultivate a Bigger View in Writing and Life

Seeing our planet–the entire misty blue sphere–from outer space changes one’s perspective. Astronauts who’ve experienced this say it’s like a mystical experience. It changed them.

This big shift in consciousness is called The Overview Effect. The term was coined by astronaut Frank White. He wrote that he was profoundly changed from seeing the earth as a fragile ball of life hanging in the void and nourished by a thin atmosphere. From space, the conflicts that divide people seemed unimportant. International borders are a fiction. White was overcome by feelings that we humans should unite and cooperate. We are all interconnected.

I heard similar stories from the cosmonauts I met years ago in Star City, Russia, while reporting a magazine feature story about Space Station Mir. The men and women who lived on that spacecraft were orbiting earth, so they didn’t see the full “pale blue dot.” But they, too, were changed. They spoke with...

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Short Memoir: How Pilgrimage Shows Us the Way Back to True Self

 Last winter, I traveled to southern India for a pilgrimage to Arunachala, a conical mountain considered by Hindus to be the embodiment of Shiva, the god of destruction and rebirth. The night before the pilgrimage, I dropped onto the mattress in my bamboo hut hoping for a peaceful rest. I fell asleep listening to mosquitoes bombard the window screens. The peace didn’t last. Two hours later, I was awake. When it became clear I wasn’t going back to sleep, I got up and went outside to the bamboo balcony of my two-story hut and spread out my yoga mat. I moved through a few Sun Salutations. Moving my body like this clears energy trapped in muscle and sinew. It makes me feel better and sometimes allows me to go back to sleep.

But on this night, sleep wasn’t in the cards. After more yoga poses, I lay on my mat, lost in thought, staring across the grassy land at Arunachala. Clouds shrouded its conical summit and, lit by a full moon, the mountain seemed to glow from...

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