Thanks for the Memories: November and Writing Memoirs
Even Non-Writers Have Memoirs
You don’t consider yourself a writer? That doesn’t matter. A memoir can take on many different guises. You could write an informal family history to give out at Thanksgiving or bring a digital recorder and record a memory that everyone attending remembers from a past holiday. I will admit to ambushing my grandmother with enthusiasm, a tape recorder (it used cassette tapes, the horror!), and a list of questions about her early childhood one Christmas when I was around 12.
Write for your current (or future) children or relatives. And yes, write because you want to be the next Jeanette Walls, the author who wrote The Glass Castle. Unlike an autobiography, a memoir doesn’t need to delve into one’s entire past, but instead chooses specific times or events. Henry Thoreau’s Walden records his memories as he spent two years, two months, and two days in the cabin he built by Walden pond.
Your memoir doesn’t need to be written with the intent of publication, however. Perhaps you can come to terms with a difficult part of your past or illuminate a common struggle. It is hard to say it without sounding trite, but write down what you remember happened and also what you were feeling when it happened. You think you have lived too boring a life? You can write a memoir about anything, trivial or large events, a specific time in your life or the first time you experienced something. No matter the kind of memoir you write, just tell your story in your own voice.
If you need some help getting started, you could check out some of these how to guides in our collection.
- Living to tell the tale: A guide to writing memoir by Jane Taylor McDonnell.
- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish your Memoir by Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann.
- The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith.
- Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism, and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers edited by Sherry Ellis.
- Overdrive eBook: Write your life story: How to Organize and Record your Memories for Family and Friends to Enjoy by Michael Oke.
- Hoopla eAudio: Write that Memoir Right Now: Forget “someday,” start today! by Kim Brittingham.