A number of years ago a friend came to me with a pile of paper. This bundle was in fact her father’s memoir. She asked if I could take a look at it; make it a “smoother read” through editing. You see, English was not her father’s first language and his writing was, well to put it mildly disjointed and full of neologisms.
I spent an hour on just one sentence and was about to throw the pile out the window when I realized that this was not just a bunch of paper I would be discarding, but a life. Memoirs are memories put down on paper, and memories are life. Our memories pile up year after year after year, much like photos used to pile up in boxes. You know how bad you used to feel not doing anything with those boxed up photos. It got me to thinking… like my friend’s father, we should all feel the same about memories because they help keep us alive; they tell the story of us and prove that we were living, breathing, important parts of this world.
Since that first experience editing a memoir, I have had other people approach me about editing memoirs. In one case a man who emigrated from China had me work on his memoir. He was in his 70’s and had endured a great deal to achieve career successes and raise a family in Canada. He wanted his children, grandchildren and future generations to hear his story; hear about ancestors back home and to have them understand their legacy. Keeping the family history alive was very important to him but there are many different reasons for writing a memoir.
- When you create a written narrative, your past takes you on a journey of discovery, giving you a clear vision of who you are.
- Memoir writing can help you form a connection with relatives from your past; old friends or new people who you want to share your story with.
- Often times it is easier to write as opposed to talk about the past.
- Writing about the past allows us to share ideas or teach lessons.
- It allows you to share information about people (i.e. grandparents) and places with children and grandchildren that you might not ordinarily talk about in everyday conversation.
- It can be therapeutic, helping you to deal with guilt, anger or betrayal from the past.
- Once you write a memoir it can be habit forming leading to all sorts of other writing projects, whether for pleasure, history or career.
- Writing is challenging so it is a good mental exercise. Research shows it can improve mental agility.
If you are too young to get started on a memoir then simply start writing in a journal. This will help you keep track of events, people and places in your life. Some people find it hard to write in a journal regularly and that’s okay. Many people write down their thoughts in a notebook on a consistent basis then they take a break for months or even years and then pick it up again. Write as much as you can, when you can, but keep in mind that there will be many important moments in your life that you will be able to remember years later, despite not writing them down.
For assistance with your memoir contact Teresa Madaleno at firstname.lastname@example.org
( definition of neologism: A term used to describe the use of words that have meaning only to the person who writes or verbalizes them.)