On rare occasions I”m asked ‘Why memoir?’ And this is usually followed by ‘What’s so special about you?’
This happened recently when a woman introduced me to her husband. ‘What genre are your books?’ he asked.
‘I write memoir.’
‘Oh, like your autobiography—’ Well, no. ‘—are you well known are you?’ He scoffed.
Memoir is not based on self-importance.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this and possibly won’t be the last. And while his wife chastised him for being rude, I pondered from which angle to address this.
Did I match his arrogance and share a snippet of the worst parts of my life story? Or did I take the time to educate him in the hope that he might listen? Fortunately, or not, I didn’t have the opportunity to respond either way, as the doorbell rang.
It did prompt me, though, to investigate this further and answer this question.
What is memoir and how does it differ to an autobiography?
A memoir begins at a significant point in a person’s life. From there, the story flits into the past allowing one event to naturally lead to another like building blocks until a pivotal moment is reached. A memoir has one or more major themes woven through the story and is based on life experiences set over a period of time. Similar to a novel the author has a distinctive voice and the story can be manipulated to improve it by moving events around, merging characters or changing a scene or event to create more of an emotional impact/or climax.
An autobiography is written in chronological order and includes the person’s whole life.
Why write a memoir?
A memoir helps us to make sense of our world. Story connects us with others who may have felt the same feelings, or experienced similar situations. It can be a comfort for the reader, to discover they’re not alone.
Life is story and we create it daily in each and every moment. When we connect our current circumstance with the stories we’ve been selling to self, we understand we’re in a position to change our story.
When we share the action we have taken, the reader is invited to formulate an opinion which tests their values and beliefs.
In many ways, I see memoir as a mystery—my life’s mystery, where I gather the fragments of conversations, and pieces of events and landscapes, to complete my individual jigsaw puzzles. In each, I discover meaning and truth, which in-turn dispels fear. Eventually, at the end of this incarnation I would like to think one complete picture will remain.
Memoir may not be seen as imaginative or literary work of genius, yet it is about life and how one person has lived. Everyone is here to live. Not everyone will want to share their story, yet this is not to say it’s an egotistical pastime. It is an in-depth soul searching exercise that heals the writer, from the inside (psychologically dissolving hurt, anger, betrayal and guilt), and the outside (where physically, mentally and emotionally they are able to live a more balanced and harmonious existence). When we write, we give ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow.
I believe everyone lives an extraordinary life, and each has a unique story to share. For me, writing has turned my life into a journey worth living.
It’s never easy to re-create a difficult experience or to admit a heartfelt truth, though the enlightenment is tantamount to living in peace and joy.
Do you read or write memoirs? If so, do you enjoy the journey they take you on, and why?
Write to Heal and make your mark!
Leanda Michelle ♥