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Naked and Afraid

Our Memoir Incubator leader talks about how sharing memoirs with our writing community can feel like being a participant on Naked and Afraid.

By Shanda McManus

September 15, 2022

Last spring, while visiting colleges with my daughter, we watched our favorite show, Naked and Afraid. I don’t know why but we only watch it when we stay in a hotel, not at home.

The show pairs two strangers, a man and a woman, who called themselves survivalists. Their challenge is to last 21 days in a wilderness, like the Amazon jungle, without clothes or shoes. The two have to find shelter, water, and food with the help of one item, usually a machete or firestarter.

My daughter and I laugh at the overconfidence of some participants, particularly brawny men who are reduced to tears by the lack of food or bug bites. We are entertained as we sit in our comfortable climate-controlled room well-fed. The pair rarely secures enough food and spends most of the time weak and miserable. The participants can at any time “tap out,” i.e., quit. The successful survivalists rely on and support each to complete the difficult challenge. Those who complete the 21 days celebrate their victory and the confidence and pride that the experience built.

I could describe the Memoir Incubator as a Naked and Afraid experience. Our writing community has journeyed through the wilderness of writing armed with only a pen or computer, feeling vulnerable and lacking confidence. We have supported each other as we weathered doubts and time constraints. Now we are preparing to share the first draft of our projects. Sharing a memoir is a vulnerable undertaking akin to being naked in public. I have written things in my memoir that I have never admitted to or shared with anyone.

Thankfully, we have cultivated a community of positive support in the Memoir Incubator. So the challenge of being naked and afraid has become something I can not only survive but emerge from victorious.

Shanda McManus has been featured in Intima Journal of Narrative Medicine, Midnight & Indigo, and other publications.