Also, reasons why you shouldn’t write a memoir.
Writing a memoir can be a powerful and transformative experience. It allows you to reflect on your life and to share your story with others. However, before you decide to write a memoir, it’s important to consider the reasons why you want to write it. You also need to be aware of the potential challenges that you may face.
Reasons to Write a Memoir
While there are many reasons to write a memoir, there are four that stand out above all others. These are personal growth, sparking creativity, providing inspiration for others, and leaving a legacy. The four reasons here are a major part of why memoirs have become such a hot genre, even when they are often little more than collected journal entries.
For some, writing a memoir can be a cathartic and therapeutic process. The process of sifting through your memories and putting them into your own words allows you to reflect on your life. As you work through the editing process to tell your story clearly as possible, you can also gain a deeper understanding of both you and your experiences.
Writing a memoir is also a way to unleash creativity, some of which you may not be aware you had. After all, writing anything is a creative endeavor. Even writing a diary to then compile into a book is still a creative process. While you could hire a biographer to tell your story, memoir allows you to express yourself and to tell your story in your own way.
Through your creative efforts, your memoir can be a source of inspiration for others. When you write your memoir, keep in mind that readers will check out your story in order to see the world through someone else’s eyes. What better way to learn from others’ experiences than by taking them on a tour down memory lane?
Lastly, writing a memoir allows you to leave a legacy. But it isn’t just for the benefit of bragging rights for your family and future generations. Memoir can be the best way to preserve your memories and to share your story with others. Writing in this genre also allows you to preserve your voice, personality, and perspectives, too.
Reasons NOT to Write a Memoir
Of course, for all the positives writing and publishing a memoir can offer both you and the world at large, there are four concerns you must recognize. In fact, any one or a combination of these four reasons not to write a memoir should be first considered when undertaking such a project. These are the time and effort involved, criticism, legal issues, and privacy concerns.
First off, time and effort are something you must consider when writing a memoir. After all, writing a book of any kind, even one written piecemeal to later be anthologized, requires a significant investment of time and effort. However, while memoir writing can be a long and challenging process, it can be broken down into manageable chunks.
Just setting aside as little as twenty minutes a day to write a little more, or simply keeping a diary, may be all you need for the first draft of your memoir. But, if you don’t believe there’s going to be an audience for your story and experiences, it may not be worth all the extra effort you could spend on other endeavors.
The next reason to avoid writing a memoir is criticism. But, the sort of criticism that is most concerning isn’t from reviewers, whose job it is to be critical of anything they read. The criticism that can be problematic is from people who may be portrayed in the book. When you go to publish your memoir, be prepared for any potential backlash.
Unfortunately, it isn’t necessarily enough to have thick skin. There may be legal issues which could stem from your book. If you are writing about real people and events, you may need to be aware of defamation laws and other legal issues. Seek legal advice before publishing your memoir if you feel it contains potential lawsuit material. You could simply change names and alter certain facts to protect both the innocent and guilty. But, at some point, your memoir becomes a fictionalized account based on your life experiences and ceases to be a memoir altogether.
Lastly, there are also privacy concerns. Writing a memoir requires you to be open and honest about your life, which can be difficult for some people. It can also put you at risk of exposing sensitive information about yourself and others. Again, you may want to seek professional guidance from biographers and other memoir writers on what’s best to include or not. Again, privacy concerns could lead you down the path of turning your life into a novel, at which point it simply becomes fiction based on a true story.
My Thoughts on Writing a Memoir
Now that we have considered four reasons to write a memoir and four reasons that may keep you from doing so, what do you think? In writing a memoir, it’s important to consider the reasons why you want to write it and to be aware of the potential challenges. Yes, it can be a powerful and transformative experience, but you may discover that fictionalizing certain aspects may be better for you, those who would be portrayed in the book, as well as institutions and other parties who may just want to leech off your creative work.
As I conclude, I’ll give you my personal take on writing a memoir. My belief is that unless you have a story that will make people stop and think, it’s not worth writing one. In my experience, most people who write memoirs that end up successful are only so popular because they create controversy. I have no interest in drama, kicking up dirt, or throwing people under the bus.
So, I personally am not seeking to write a memoir. I would rather publish journal entries and essays offering positive advice and outlooks, rather than dredge up the past. That’s my take. What’s yours?
Have you ever considered writing your own memoir? Why or why not?