When I began writing A Test for Our Time: Crisis Leadership in the Next Normal, people often asked me if authoring a memoir was cathartic. Initially, I assumed it was—yet as I revised and edited the book, I discovered that there’s a distinction between catharsis and authenticity. An authentic account is rooted in fact, so accuracy requires extensive research and ensuring interviews with those involved are conducted. Creative license might be taken to fill gaps or enhance storytelling elements.
On the other hand, a cathartic memoir focuses on exploring personal growth through revisiting past experiences from an individual perspective. Expressing emotion more openly can provide closure or understanding of one’s history—although this comes at the cost of extra work and anguish! My memoir contains both authentic and cathartic elements, as I’ve blended my pandemic leadership journey with lots of self-reflection. As a beginner author, this distinction has been invaluable in deepening the meaning of my writing. The passage of time between edits has also been crucial in determining which approach is most meaningful to the reader and true to my intentions. What I’ve learned through this process has been equally humbling and enlightening.