The self on the page

Photo of Lee Kofman in bushland
Lee Kofman
27 June 2018
Lee Kofman

Try out this writing exercise from WV tutor Lee Kofman on how to put your self onto the page.

One of the greatest challenges in memoir writing is to find the right distance between the Self on the page and the Self which writes the story.

How do we develop the objectivity and capacity for self-analysis required for turning ourselves into compelling characters? How do we move into the realm of art, where our psychological defenses fall off and the core of our selves is exposed for what it is/was?

Writing oneself into a character can be a long process, and the following exercise is only one of the many tools you may need to foster your self-examination. This particular exercise will hopefully help you to start looking at yourself from the outside as if you just noticed another person – familiar to you, yet at the same time separate from you (or rather, from your writing Self).

The exercise...

  1. Write a physical description of yourself as you were at the time when your memoir is set. What did you look like? What kind of a body language did you have? What was your dressing style then? What were your typical facial expressions? If the story happened long time ago, you may want to look at some photos to aid your memory.
  2. Now reflect: was your outer self at that time in sync with your inner self? Or in conflict? An example of conflict: perhaps you were feeling sad at that time yet dressed in bright colours?
  3. Now write a scene relevant to your story where the physical ‘you’ either reveals the inner ‘you’, or the contradiction between who you were and who you were trying to be.

About Lee Kofman

Lee Kofman is an author of four books, including the memoir ‘The Dangerous Bride’ about non-monogamy. Her short works have been widely published in Australia, UK, Scotland, Israel, Canada and US, including in ‘Best Australian Stories’, ‘Best Australian Essays’ and ‘Meanjin’. Lee has been mentoring writers for over ten years. She is the blogger-in-residence for Writers Victoria and her personal blog was a finalist for Best Australian Blogs 2014.

Update: Lee will be running a workshop on Writing the Self in Creative Non-Fiction at Writers Victoria in July 2018.