After the discouraging, depressing articles about bad memoir writers in the news, we have something good to report from an article in the Huffington Post titled Actually, Memoir IS All About You. How nice to hear that we can write about ourselves and not feel like we are a bunch of navel-gazing, narcissistic, nobodies who are boring the world with our stories—as reported from on high in a New York Times article by Neil Genzlinger a few weeks ago.
I had to wonder if he’d ever been faced with a memoir challenge: write for thirty minutes about the most meaningful experience of your life. That’s what those who were in Dr. James Pennebaker’s early studies about writing and healing, writing and transformation did, and so have many others who go on to write and publish well written books that inspire others. I talk about those studies and the power of writing to create new perspectives and new mindsets in my book The Power of Memoir. My guess is that he might fail the test.
Memoir writing is not for the faint of heart. Betty Davis said, “Getting old is not for sissies,” and the same is true for writing a memoir. We need to find our tribe, those of like mind who are exploring the planet, whether internally, externally, or both, and feel ourselves supported and buoyed up by being around them. We need to listen to that still small voice that invites us to write, to break open the silence in our lives. To speak our truths. When we do that, we open the world to us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. What is your writing tribe? Do you have support in your writing life?
Yesterday I was invited to participate in a wonderful teleseminar by Tina Games who is relaunching her book Journaling by the Moonlight. I met several women I didn’t know—though I knew Tina and Ruth Folit, who has produced the Life Journal program to journal online. Tamara Gold and Lynn Serafinn were new to me, but 90 minutes later, after talking about the transformational power of writing, the spiritual strength that writing can offer us, I felt connected and re-energized about my own writing and what I do with memoir writers.
This is some of what we were all saying:
- Writing is transformational.
- Writing creates new insights and awareness.
- Writing frees us to find our truths and deepen our connection with ourselves.
- Writing invites our Whole Self to revel in the creativity and passion of who we really are.
The purpose of writing is to discover, uncover, and recover –and to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. First, we write for ourselves—not worrying about judgments or criticism—then we write to communicate to others. We might begin in a journal, and continue the journaling as we write our personal stories in a memoir, which is constructed of scenes and created to bring others into our experience.
Memoirs are more popular than ever! Let your voice be heard, and write a new story today! In your journal, online, to a friend, or as a new chapter in your book.
Sign up for the NAMW newsletter to find out what memoir writers are up to, and to get writing articles and prompts in your inbox to feed the flame of your writing passion. Best of luck in your writing life!
But how does one get focused when having led an action packed life with such diversity, it might end up the length of a Tolstoy novel?
There are, of course, personal reasons to write a memoir, as stated in this post – to discover, uncover and recover. However, I would not overlook the desire to amuse, educate and inform as motive for memoir writing.
I have written two memoirs – one about an entrepreneurial venture in which I was involved called “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare” and the other a chronicle of my adventures in the world of dating and relationships, entitled “So, Why Have You Never Been Married?: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Lunacy”. I cite the titles of my work to indicate that they are both comic in nature – darkly comic, but comic, nonetheless.
My memoirs were not written with the conscious intention of healing either myself or others, although they may we ll have done the former, and, conceivably, the latter. My books were written to educate, to inform, to warn and, most importantly, to entertain. My memoirs were written to sound like an amusing story that someone sitting beside you on a long train trip might tell. I consider my books – although they are both memoirs – to be in the category of literary non-fiction, which is to say, that they are intended to deliver the reading experience of fiction, although or because they are based on fact.
I am not taking issue whatsoever with the notion that the motive for memoir is or should be personal – to discover or heal oneself. I am saying that the desire to entertain and amuse is also a reason to write. My books may be about personal transformation insofar as the act of writing is, in itself, transformational, but more importantly, they’re funny. And nothing gives me greater pleasure than receiving a note from a reader who says that my books made him or her laugh out loud.
That’s memoir-writing, too.