April 21, 2024

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New Director's Dialogue available now in ARC Event Library

Memoirs: Who Should Write One? How to Get Started.

By Tom Watson

Many people think about writing memoirs, but just never seem to get started. I think it may be because they think of a “memoir” as a book, usually by a famous person. They often say, “I’d like to write stories, but I don’t know how to start.”

I like the Wikipedia’s definition of memoir: “A memoir (from French: mémoire: memoria, meaning memory or reminiscence) is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject’s life. The assertions made in the work are understood to be factual.”

A memoir does not have to be about a momentous event, or cover a long period of time. It can describe almost any happening that you remember and were in some way involved.

Why would anyone want to write a memoir? There are many reasons. I enjoy remembering my friends and the things we did together. Just writing about them makes the friends (many of whom are now dead) live again, and the events seem almost to be happening again. Another reason is to pass on to your children and grandchildren a record of what events happened in your day, and what you thought about them.

One very good way to get started is to write for your children about your parents. Give them some stories that tell what their grandparents were like, what they did, what they said, what they believed, or whatever you remember that your kids should know.

Writing about your parents or grandparents will help make them real to future generations. I know my great grandfather’s and grandmothers’ names, where they were born and where they died, but I know nothing about them as persons.

Another way to write a story is to remember an old friend. What was something the two of you did together that was funny, scary, dangerous, or maybe adventurous? Then just sit down at your computer and start describing it. Where did it happen? When? What did the two of you do? Why did you do it? What went wrong/right? How did it end?

As you write, something will come to you that should have been written earlier in the story. Just use “cut and paste.” When you are done, let it sit a day or two and re-read it. You may find something you want to change, and maybe something you want to add. At some point you must call the story “done” and get on with a new one.

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