Can I Write My Memoirs?
I suppose you’d like a little more meat on that bone.
Well, I think everyone can write a memoir.
You’ve got memories, you can write your memoirs. However, I accept that this bald statement, stirring though it is, might not be enough to attack the computer with zeal. There are often some lurking questions.
Do I have anything to say?
Every life is unique. Only you have had your experiences which you have coupled with your unique learnings which have culminated in a life nobody else has lived. For example, your first family was unique. You may think, “Nah, I had two other brothers—so they grew up the same way.” But not true.
Were you the oldest or the youngest? If the oldest, did you feel the pressure of being a model for your younger siblings? Are you the one your parents made all the mistakes on? Did you resent that they were more relaxed about discipline and expectations with the other two than they were with you? If you were the youngest, did you get babied? Was that good or bad for later life? Did you envy the attention your oldest brother always got? And middle children—don’t get me started. So even siblings in the same family environment experience it differently.
Another lurking issue might be ‘ah, it’s all been said and written before.’ True to some extent but as I mentioned in my post, Finding Your Distinctive Voice, the famous novelist Kurt Vonnegut believed that there are only a few basic stories in literature which keep being repeated (boy meets girl, etc.). It is the distinctive spin you put on that retelling which makes the narrative worth reading.
Do I have the talent to write my memoirs?
Well, if you think you need to be Shakespeare, then probably not. But if you are hoping for memoirs which are engaging and meaningful then, again and by and large, yes.
However, one thing contributes greatly to an evocative and real story. Honesty. Honesty with yourself and your audience. This means presenting things as they were, not as you would have wanted them to be or even how you want people to remember you. Your readers are smart cookies and they are likely to catch significant revisionist history. If they do, your memoirs don’t ring true and will therefore be less interesting.
Do I have the skill?
You may assume that if you are a fabulous story teller, you have the skills you need. Or conversely, if you’re not, then you can’t write your memoirs. Actually, neither is necessarily true.
Writing down who you are requires a different set of skills. When you tell a story in person, you have your voice, gestures, and physical presence to help. In writing, you have none of these and therefore have a find ways to nevertheless make your story appealing.
So, you need to acquire some writing craft. A bit of work but completely doable. Learning some writing practices is what this blog is all about. If you follow the blog, you will be able to develop the skills needed.
I am planning to do a series of posts on memoir writing which will appear sporadically. I think I will do one more. My next post is Should I Write a Memoir? Completely different issue.