You don’t need to have had a hardscrabble youth in order to write a memoir. You don’t need eccentric parents. Believe it or not, you don’t need anything dramatic. And you certainly don’t have to publish it. It's a sad but true truth, 99.9 percent of people lead boring lives. But every single one of them is trying to make some sense out of his or her existence, to find some meaning in the world, and therein lies the value and opportunity of memoir. It’s therapeutic for the writer, and it eventually even helps his or her descendants understand themselves better.
“Memoir is about handing over your life to someone and saying, This is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it,” says Jeannette Walls, author of Glass Castles. “It’s honestly sharing what you think, feel, and have gone through. If you can do that effectively, then somebody gets the wisdom and benefit of your experience without having to live it.”
Writing about your life is also about coming to a fresh understanding of it at an age when you probably think you know yourself pretty well. Novelist Stephen King has said, “I write to find out what I think.” He means that until you set an experience down on paper, until you ponder the perfect words to describe it, you can’t fully appreciate or understand it. When you weave related experiences together, you will see a pattern in the quilt of your existence. It’s about creating a legacy that doesn’t have dollar signs in front of it but has far greater long-term value for those that know and love you.
There are as many different types of memoir as there are people. Like Walls you can write about your childhood. You can write about places you’ve visited, as Elizabeth Gilbert did in the blockbuster memoir Eat Pray Love. You can write about a crime or injustice you encountered, as Mary-Ann Tirone Smith did in Girls of Tender Age, which traces the murder of a classmate. You can write a memoir about anything, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential. Everybody has stories shelved in his or her subconscious, awaiting translation.
The challenge is getting started, coaxing the story out. (Indeed, there are those who say beginning is half done.) Since there is inherent worth to the endeavor beyond public acclaim, you don’t have to be a professional writer or someone with connections in publishing to succeed. You can write it for yourself and truly enjoy the process.
Freakin' Genius Marketing
Thursday, October 22, 2015
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