Writing a memoir is a powerful act. That is why my book is called The Power of Memoir. The act of remembering, writing, and exploring the deepest reaches of the heart takes courage, and it will change you. Writing a memoir is a way to value yourself and your story, to honor those you have loved and who have loved you. It’s a way to heal, to come to terms with your life, and to leave a tale that others can appreciate.
Most memoir writers struggle with reasons for writing their memoir. Their inner critic pops up with, “What a waste of time, who would want to read this,” and other nonsense. Write for yourself, write the stories that fill your mind, heart, and dreams. Find the stories that have meaning to you, stories that give you pleasure to remember. You will be rewarded beyond measure, and your family might thank you too.
I like to share on this blog what I’ve learned from writing my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother and what I learned from publishing it and sharing it with others, but it was a long journey. I began by writing in my journal, and then “translating” those rough drafts into the computer where they began to form chapters.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR REASONS FOR WRITING
Stories—they beckon us to tell them, we pull up a chair and turn our ear to listen. We connect with others and parts of ourselves through stories. Before birth, we’re woven into other people’s stories. Our own spark of life begins at a turning point in our family—that of our own birth. We enter the world at the beginning of our family’s story and become one of the main characters in its drama. We’re woven into the tapestry of family, friends and community from the beginning.
As in a fairy tale, on our journey we encounter wizards, witches, dark forests, and good fairies; we experience joy and challenges, heartache and hope. Through our struggles, failures, and successes, we discover our own unique story. We learn who we are and where we’re going.
Writing a memoir is like taking a journey without an itinerary. We begin at a certain point and stop at certain stations, only to hop on another train going somewhere else. As long as we are courageous about the journey, and keep track of where we visit, we learn from the process. We will be changed by this journey.
Some reasons why you might want to write the stories about your life
- To gain a deeper understanding of yourself and the life you’ve lived.
- To heal the past, and create hope for the future.
- To create a legacy for your family, a family history.
- To expose injustice or abuse.
- To settle emotional scores—from anger and revenge to acceptance and forgiveness.
- To present a point of view about a controversial issue.
- To share with the world your unique experiences with travel, education, illness and recovery, family, or your spiritual quest.
- To taste again the joys of friends, acquaintances, and fellow travelers.
- To honor those we have loved.
- To capture another time and place, now gone.
There are so many reasons to write a memoir. You can begin by writing in your journal so you don’t feel pressure to make it “perfect.” Allow yourself to write fast, and let the words flow. After you feel ready to share some of your stories, you can blog them to have them online where you can read them more objectively as a reader would who doesn’t know you. You can practice being published long before your book is done. Most people feel the need first “just to write,” to discover the stories they have been thinking and dreaming about all their lives. They need to write freely and without pressure. We need to enjoy the process of remembering.
Make your own list of why you want to write your memoir. Share it with your friends, writing buddies, Facebook friends. Gather support as you begin. It takes a community to write a memoir!
Keep your journal by your bed, be ready to write down dreams and little flashes of memory. Give yourself full permission to explore. All creative activities begin with desire and permission—and keeping that inner critic at bay.
Start today—write a story about the happiest moment in your life.