“No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”

When writers are open to learning and growing through the writing process, a sense of discovery infuses our words. Personal growth isn’t a selfish reason for writing; it’s an essential ingredient in effective stories. As Robert Frost puts it, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” The reader latches on to our experience of vulnerability and risk, following our growth like a lead-rope.

Teachers often admonish beginning writers, “Write what you know!” It’s good advice. The wisdom we know deep inside ourselves is infinitely richer than anything we can be taught. In memoir, you blatantly write what you know. Your memories are your subject; the story already exists, and you are simply transcribing it onto the page. At least that’s the way it seems before you start writing. But not that far into your draft you discover that you know much less than you thought. What really happened? What do these memories reveal about you or about the sacred? Why, after all, are you writing? 

from “Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew