5 Reasons Why You Should Write a Memoir
Before I give you my 5 reasons why you should write a memoir( and why I wrote one), I’d like to explore briefly just what a memoir is and why it’s become one of the most popular reading genres of our time.
What is a memoir? First off, it’s a story. It’s a story about a life, usually written by the writer about her life. But, it could be written about someone close to you, a family member or friend. It’s not a biography or autobiography, which is more or less a comprehensive history of a person’s life, starting with birth or childhood and ending with – who knows?
No, a memoir is a story about a life, but framed within a particular viewpoint or perspective. It’s not the whole story. It’s the story of a life that shines a light or perhaps exposes a particular aspect or a common thread throughout a person’s life.
In my case, I chose to tell the story of my life through the homes I’ve lived in. You might choose another perspective with which to weave your life: your partners, your illnesses, your travels, your work.
Why are memoirs so popular, especially now? Well, for one thing, we’re all curious. I’d venture to say many of us are voyeurs at heart. I know I am. I’ve always loved reading about other people, starting with, when I was a child, famous people, like presidents or kings and queens. Those were mostly biographies. But then I discovered reading books written by people about their own lives. It’s often fun or illuminating to read about the rich and the famous, or the desperate and the depraved. But even if a story is about someone you might never have heard of, if it’s well-written, it can be fascinating, but at the very least, it will be interesting.
And that’s my main point – for reading and then writing a memoir. I believe every life is interesting. And I believe there is great value in not only reading memoirs, but writing your own.
Here are my 5 reasons for writing a memoir.
Number One: It causes you to record certain events or dramas in your life that can be of value to others.
Maybe you actually walked under a ladder when you were a child and a bucket of paint fell on you and scarred you for life. That could explain your anxiety and superstitions to your children, whenever they went out to play, that you were always warning them to “be careful” instead of saying, “have a good time!”
You are a witness to history. You can tell your children or grandchildren what it was like when Hurricane Sandy flooded your basement.
I wrote, ever so briefly, about the Great Black-Out of 1965 and how I experienced it.
Number Two: it causes you to pause and reflect on your own life, or that of the person you’re writing about. In doing so, you become aware of new things or ideas – of cause and effect, of new relationships.
In my own case, I became aware of patterns in my life – of certain values I had. I had always lived in traditionally-styled homes. One time, I lived in a non-traditional styled house, an A-frame. I kept trying to change it into something I was more comfortable with, but I never was able to. I was very unhappy in that place.
Number Three: You are providing evidence of aspects of your life that individually will be useful and interesting to your readers, but collectively, will be useful to history.
Architects take note: even having separate bedrooms or bathrooms cannot always save a troubled marriage.
Number Four: You are leaving a legacy for your heirs and colleagues.
More and more, we want to know about our ancestors’ personal lives, especially their medical histories.
I want my children and grandchildren to know what it was like when I was their age and how I lived my life.
Number Five: You are describing – or perhaps explaining – things the way you want them to be recorded. You may or may not be giving the whole truth, the only truth, so help you God, but it’s your truth and your take on what you’ve chosen to write about.