For some, writing a memoir is a cathartic experience, where the struggle and triumph of life’s adversity is laid bare.
Unlike fiction, there can be pushback against the memoirist as to the accuracy of fact. Family members may not like the way that they are portrayed. They may not like that secrets have been revealed or the way that the story has unfolded.
How much to tell is the memoirist’s dilemma. Writers of a memoir tell the story as they recall it. If family members remember differently (and we all remember a little differently) the environment might be fertile for grit.
Still, some writers have freed themselves by writing the raw life experience in its entirety, as seen through the lens of their memory.
Writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, has the potential to crack us open.
Some people come to writing for the first time in their sixties. They may feel like they have always had a book in them. Others, like me, have spent a lifetime writing. We have waited patiently for the intervening obligations of life to settle down enough so that there is the time to write for hours in a day.
I love the memoir format, though I will probably never write a full-length memoir. Instead, on my blog, I write small snippets of my life that are memory, but not memoir. Blogs and email newsletters are great places to gather and share life memories.
Still, the idea of a book can be such a delicious accomplishment, so why not write a book of memories? While memoirs reveal the heroine’s journey, a book of your memories provides a shining insight into the heart and soul of the heroine.
Here are six steps you can take to write a memory book:
Get yourself a nice notebook that will fit into your bag along with a couple of good pens. When an idea strikes you, pull out your notebook and write it down. You don’t have to write down the whole thing, just a title will do, i.e. “My First Kiss.”
Become an observer of life. Sit outside in a park or in a café. Use your senses to take in the world around you. This will help you to better-recall details from the memories you decide to write about.
What do you see? What does the place smell like? Can you hear traffic in the distance? Do the people around you seem happy, sad, clueless? Watch that child over there, sitting across from her mother, drinking a hot chocolate. Does it conjure up a time when you, as a child sat across from your mother?
Write these things down, then you can get your daily writing prompts from this little notebook.
Write where you feel the most comfortable. A desk, a favorite chair with a laptop. An outdoor café, the sun warm on your shoulders.
Caffeine is an absolute necessity. Gather round you the accouterments of writing. For me, it’s always a cup of tea, several yellow legal pads, a container of pens and my writer’s notebook.
I sit on the couch in my office with my laptop. I often light a candle. Writing your life is sacred business.
I don’t always write with music, but I have been known to assign music to characters and listen to their songs to get the essence of them before I put them down on the page. Music is emotionally powerful. If you are writing your memories, it may assist in guiding you to a certain feeling tone or place.
If you can think of songs that remind you of certain times in your life or specific events, listen to those songs when you want to write about those memories. For example, the song you danced to at your wedding or the song that reminds you of your first love.
Write at the same time, day in and day out. This is an acquired discipline. Start small and build up. You will be amazed at what you can do in just twenty minutes.
Don’t stress it. There will be days when you don’t feel like writing. These are days when I either read something about writing or I read someone who inspires me, like Toni Morrison or May Sarton.
One of my favorite books is, Old Friend from Far Away, by Natalie Goldberg. Her book provides a gentle resource for writing both memoir and memory writing. It’s filled with one-page writing prompts that will inspire you to begin mining your life’s recollections and getting them onto the page.
Could you write one hundred memories in a year? With 365 days, that does not seem like an out-of-reach goal. What would you do with those pages?
What if you compiled all of your stand-alone memory pieces and sorted them by date, theme or time of life? What if you saw that they were a book of your life and something that you might share with your children and grandchildren?
The Internet is a veritable mecca of self-publishing and there free or virtually free sites that can help format your pages into a professional looking book.
What a gift to yourself and to those around you it is to write your memories for them to enjoy. By writing your memoir or writing a book of memories, you are creating a legacy that will live on.
What events, people or places will your book of memories have in it? Have you ever considered writing a memory book? Please share with me in the comments.
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