5 Reasons to Write Your Memoir 19

What is memoir, and why should you write yours?

Essentially, memoir is a collection of memories in narrative form, a story composed of events you experienced in your life. Memoir makes visible and weaves together the connecting threads of those events and gives meaning to them. And that’s the primary difference between autobiography — which chronicles your life from birth to the present — and memoir; memoir pulls related events from your life and examines them, turns them around and inside out like taffy, and shapes them into a story that communicates your perspective and truth to others.

But don’t you have to have had a difficult life to write a memoir worth reading?
No, you don’t. Many memoirs are about difficult subjects: poverty, abuse, mental and physical illnesses, death, and loss. But it isn’t necessary to have a hard life in order to write a meaningful memoir.

In a *Writer’s Digest article, Jeanette Walls, author of the classic memoir, The Glass Castle, is quoted as having said, “One of the lessons I’ve learned from writing this memoir is how much we all have in common. So many of us think that certain things only happened to us and somehow they make us less of a person. I’m constantly urging people, especially older folks, to write about their lives. It gives you new perspective. 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. 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.”

[bctt tweet=”Memoir shapes life events into a story that communicates your truth to others. ” username=”writingthrulife”]

I don’t think I can give a better definition of memoir than that. But if you need more motivation, here are five reasons you to write your memoir:

  1. Writing your memoir helps you to identify the threads and themes in your life and make sense of what you’ve lived.
  2. Writing about your life is a healing and transformative journey.
  3. Your memoir contributes to recorded history and is your legacy to family, friends, and the world.
  4. It provides a way to share your experiences, world view, life lessons, and wisdom with others.
  5. It connects you with others who have experienced the same or similar situations, providing encouragement, comfort, and inspiration. It helps others understand they are not alone in their experiences.

The world is waiting for your story. Will you write it?


Writers Digest article: “Great Tips on How to Write Your Memoir

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19 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Write Your Memoir

  • RYCJ

    Congrats! Your memoir was among the Top 10 books I read in 2014! …And I’ve read hundreds of memoirs over the years. They are the best recording of history I know of.

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    Thanks for the information, Amber. Although I didn’t have an major tragedies in my life, my memoirs unfold hidden truths; some of those truths are universal, and many readers identify with both the experience and the truth within the pages.

    Writing my memoirs has been transformative and have helped me to learn from the past in order to reshape the present.

    In a weird sort of way, I actually like making myself vulnerable through the written words. Enjoying that vulnerability has allowed me to risk in many areas of my life.

    Again, your words ring true!

  • Sharon Phillips

    I really need assistance with my Memoir due to several reasons! After losing my entire family over a ten year period and now being the sole survivor, I feel I have a story that can help so many others avoid some of the hurt I endured as well as finding a purpose behind the story. I was wondering if Writing Through Life can really recommend me a publisher or someone that’s willing to assist me through my writing and moving to the next steps of completion of my book.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Sharon, first of all, I’m sorry for the loss of your family. I can only imagine how difficult this ten year period has been. It’s wonderful that you want to share your story, to inspire and provide comfort to others who experience that kind of loss.

      In terms of completing your book — you don’t mention where you are in the process, whether you have completed a first draft or have just started writing, so it’s difficult for me to give you specific advice. However, it’s important to understand that publishers do not help writers complete books. Though the big publishers do have editors who help prepare books for publication, the publishing role is just that: to publish completed works. So I’ll make some general recommendations here for anyone who wants to write and publish a memoir (I may expand on this in a later blog post):

      1) Write your entire first draft. And yes, it will be messy. Don’t consider this your finished work, as most books go through several revisions.
      2) While writing, join a small group of writers, form a critique group, or find a few trusted friends who will give you honest feedback. Share your writing with them as you go, asking your readers to ask questions where parts aren’t clear, to point out the parts of your story that “grab” them and the parts they want to skip. You can use this feedback to help flesh out your story.
      3) When you’ve completed the first draft, or when you’ve written a substantial portion of it, hire a developmental editor. Yes, this costs money, but if you’re really serious about writing the best memoir your can write, hiring someone who knows how to help you craft your story and make it even more compelling to readers is critical.
      4) Revise and shape your story.
      5) When you believe your book is ready, give it to your “beta readers” for more feedback.
      6) Hire a copy editor.
      7) Revise some more.
      8) Have the manuscript proofread.
      9) When it comes to publishing there are many options, from getting an agent and going the traditional publishing route to self-publishing. Your will need to finish your memoir first.

      Sharon, all of this may seem daunting, but I believe your story is worth it. Memoirs can take a long time to complete, but they are worth it. Sharon, I hope you will continue writing, get advice, practice your writing craft, and finish that memoir. You have a valuable contribution to make to the world.

  • barbara toboni

    Thanks for another inspiring post, Amber. Although I haven’t tried writing a long memoir, I have written lots of little family stories. Maybe I will weave all those stories into a book some day.

  • Kamea Hope

    I can really relate to the second motivation you share, “Writing about your life is a healing and transformative journey”. I have recently started sharing my story of healing from childhood abuse at incrementalhealing.wordpress.com My hope was to share my journey with others so that they would be encouraged to persevere through their own challenges. I wasn’t expecting the continued healing that would occur within me, as a result of reflecting back over my experiences.
    I would love it if you would visit my blog and share your thoughts!

  • Dolly Mulcahy

    I have so much to share with my family and feel the best way may be to disclose on paper through a journal. I am going to be 83 years old on July 7th, 2015.
    Perhaps you can give me some guidance….I have started it several times, just need a little nudge! Sincerely, Dolly
    My family is in great need of healing……….

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Hi Dolly, my nudge is simply to start writing. Why don’t you write in the form of a letter … “Dear family, these are things I need to share with you …” and see where the writing goes. This is known as “Legacy” writing. It is written for your family and/or friends, not intended to be published, and may be more appropriate for your intentions than a memoir.

  • Taylor Hicken

    I guess I never really thought about how writing could be heal and transform my journey. I\’ve been thinking about starting a memoir, but recently I\’ve been so busy with work. I\’ll have to still think about writing a memoir, it might take sometime.