I retired from the profession of psychiatry five years ago to commit full time to writing. I am working on several writing projects, one of which is to tell some stories about my 40 years in psychiatric practice.
My motivation? I think I have stories worth telling about people struggling with mental challenges, and about those who try to help them. (We’ll put the shameless commerce motivation aside for now.)
There is, of course, a big problem here: confidentiality. How do I tell these stories without betraying patient trust or otherwise offend members of my profession?
What I would like to do is simply tell stories, without comment or “message” about the experiences described. I’m not interested in writing a tell-all or call for reform. I think all families and all professions have about the same percentage of saints and sinners, heroes and scoundrels. Nevertheless, some people may be offended at how they are portrayed.
I’m not writing clinically, so there must be some sort of context for the stories to be informative and/or entertaining to a general audience. (Oops, there’s that self-serving appeal to a broad readership.)
Thinking practically, I have to decide several things, the first being point of view. The obvious choice is to use first person, with me telling the story and offering commentary. This sounds like memoir. The best definition of memoir I have heard is “history through one person’s eyes.” That’s what I want to do.
Alternatively, I could use the stories as inspiration for a fiction novel, and drastically disguise people and places, writing in third person. Then I could just make up stuff. Or I could just wait until all the people in the stories are dead, including me, before having it published. (Where’s the reward in that?)
I’d like to hear from others who have written about their lives and the lives of those close to them. How does this writer tell the truth, through my eyes, and not “betray” someone, or get myself into a lot of trouble?
Here’s a link to an article that helped me write this blog: https://www.evanmarshallagency.com/memoir-or-novel-how-to-decide