WHY A MEMOIR
We look back on our life as a thing of broken pieces, because our mistakes and failures are always the first to strike us, and outweigh in our imagination what we have accomplished and attained.
In recent years, folks of diverse ages and backgrounds have turned to life-writing. Their motives are as varied as the memoirs themselves.
- Some find the experience therapeutic—an exercise in soul-searching and self-discovery, and a way of more fully revealing themselves.
- Others wish to create a family history—a family heirloom that captures the family history, and that can be passed on through the generations.
- Still others simply wish to gain clarity and coherence—to acquire perspective on a life story that (at times) has seemed ragged and disjointed.
The life-story writing process can add to a store of self-knowledge, and can help capture (and relive) past struggles, delights, and achievements. It may even change a life-driving myth or script.
For many memoirists, the writing experience helps pull together disparate experiences, and to see life as a series of unfolding, linked events—a story that possesses a coherent theme or line. Famed writer Virginia Woolf, describing the pleasure of seeing patterns in one’s experience, said this:
Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what; making a scene come right; make a character come together. From this I reach what I might call a philosophy; at any rate it is a constant idea of mine; that behind the cotton wool [of daily life] is hidden a pattern; that we—I mean all human beings—are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.
Memoir writing motives vary, and they're often mixed, and they needn't be perfectly understood. A well-defined purpose, however, can help prospective writers begin to organize thoughts, memories, and materials—and can lead to a suitable structure.