Writing a Memoir

By January 10, 2020Norm's Author Blog

We would like to embolden you to consider taking pen (or computer) in hand and consider writing a personal memoir. Such a project can satisfy you in a number of ways. To encourage you we share the following thoughts and quotes other writers.

William Zinsser, in his book On Writing Well, says, “No other nonfiction form goes so deeply to the roots of personal experience as the memoir—to all the drama and pain and humor and unexpectedness of life. Memoir is the art of inventing the truth. What gives it power is the narrowness of its focus. The memoir writer takes us back to some corner of his or her past that was unusually intense.

“Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life; it’s a deliberate construction. The crucial ingredient in memoir is people. You must summon back the men and women and children who notably crossed your life. The most interesting character in a memoir will turn out to be the person who wrote it. The best gift to offer is the gift of yourself.”

Stephen King shared thoughts in his book, On Writing. “When you first write something, you should write it for yourself. When you rewrite it, write it for everyone else. Take out everything that isn’t the story. Once it’s out there, you don’t own it anymore, everyone else does.

“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

Gloria Steinem in her book, On the Road, says, “…there is no better moment in life than finding the right word.” In so many cases, like hers and perhaps like yours, the need to get the words out is the most compelling reason for writing. We do it to share our stories, to elicit responses from others, and because it feels good. Emily Dickinson said it simply: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

2 Comments

  • Phil says:

    Thanks, Norm. I have been trying to convince my 86 year old cousin to write her memoirs. She has led an interesting life. The San Diego Historical Society has done interviews with my paternal grandmother and a great aunt on my mother’s side. The information has been invaluable to me in my research.

    I am forwarding this to my cousins to encourage them to write their stories. I am working on mine.

    Regards,

    Cousin Phil

  • Sherrie L BRINDLEY says:

    Thank you for including the Stephen King quote! That book is one of my all-time favorites.

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