Memoir writing – it seems as if everybody’s doing it. Or thinking of doing it. There are as many reasons for writing a memoir as there are authors, but in this blog post I’m going to give you some compelling reasons for writing your memoir that you may not have considered.
First, we need to get straight what a memoir is, because many people still interchange the words memoir and autobiography.
An autobiography is the story of your entire life, whereas a memoir is about a specific period of your life, which could cover months or years.
Sometimes a memoir incorporates a theme – for example, relationships you’ve had, travels you’ve been on, jobs you’ve had – which may cover the whole of your life.
But it’s not about your entire life, because you only write about the parts of your life that are relevant to that theme.
Here's more about memoir vs autobiography here.
Would Anyone Be Interested?
Let’s assume you have a story you want to write that fits the criteria of a memoir. You may be asking yourself, why should I write this? Would anybody be interested?
And the answer is Yes!
We’re all voyeurs at heart - we love to read the details of someone else’s life, particularly if it’s written in an engaging manner. There’s more on how to do this in the blog post I’ve linked to in the section above.
Readers can gain a lot from reading memoirs. Apart from the entertainment factor, there’s usually something they can learn from them – how to overcome particular challenges, pursue their dreams, deal with toxic relationships, flourish after a history of abuse.
Whatever the subject matter of your memoir, someone (or a lot of someones) will benefit from it.
And isn’t that the best reason of all?
Here are some examples of different types of memoirs. Yours may well fit into one of these categories.
The Experience Memoir
This is a memoir of an experience the author has had, which may have taken place over a short or long period of time, that has changed their life. Often it is about a struggle or challenge they overcame and how they did so.
MAKING THE BREAST OF IT: BY ROBIN STOREY
This is my account of being diagnosed with breast cancer, my treatment and how it changed my life. It’s written from a humorous point of view, focusing on the amusing incidents and the positives that resulted from it.
WOBBLY WOMAN MEMOIRS 1: BY LEEZA BARIC
This is an example of a memoir that encapsulates most of the author’s life, but only pertaining to the theme of looking for love. It chronicles the various relationships she’s had, and what she learnt from them during her search.
The Event Memoir
This is a memoir that focuses on one particular event in the author’s life, and the impact that event had on them. Again, it may have taken place over a period of time – for example, a long journey.
THINGS I LEARN FROM FALLING: BY CLAIRE NELSON
This is the story of Claire Nelson’s harrowing experience of falling 25 feet while hiking alone in the Johsua Tree National Park in California, and lying there injured for 4 days before help arrived.
WILD: BY CHERYL STRAYED
This memoir, which has been made into a movie, chronicles Cheryl Strayed’s 1100 mile hike along the west coast of the US, with no previous hiking experience, in an attempt to come to terms with her mother’s death and the breakdown of her marriage.
The Childhood Memoir
This memoir, as is self-evident, is about the author’s childhood and how their experiences and the people they grew up with shaped them.
ANGELA'S ASHES: BY FRANK McCOURT
This award-winning memoir is about Frank McCourt’s childhood in the era of the Depression, firstly in Brooklyn in the US and then in the slums of Limerick in Ireland. He writes about how he endured poverty, near-starvation and cruelty.
THE LIAR'S CLUB: BY MARY KARR
In this memoir, Mary Karr writes of growing up in a Texas refinery town with her free-spirited artist mother with mental health issues and her violent, alcoholic father. Despite her volatile family life, she learns the value of love and loyalty.
The Family Memoir
The difference between this and the childhood memoir is that the family memoir incorporates childhood and adult experiences, under the umbrella of a unifying theme.
INHERITANCE: BY DANI SHAPIRO
When Dani Shapiro discovers, after a DNA test, that her father was not her biological father, she sets out to uncover family secrets and find her biological father.
DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN DENIM AND CORDUROY: BY DAVID SEDARIS
In this book of essays, acclaimed humourist David Sedaris reveals various aspects of his eccentric family’s life, from childhood to adulthood.
Why Write A Memoir?
As mentioned previously, there are many reasons for writing a memoir, but there is one reason that trumps all:
Your life is unique. Nobody has experienced your life. Nobody has walked in your shoes.
We all can experience similar events, but the process of memoir writing is what brings your unique perspective to the fore, and this is what people love to read about.
If you're still not convinced that your personal memoir would be of interest to anybody, let's have a look at a few more examples and memoir categories.
In this type of memoir, the author chronicle their travels to a particular country, travelling over a certain time span or according to a theme – for example, gastronomic tours.
A YEAR IN PROVENCE: BY PETER MAYLE
Peter Mayle realizes a long-cherished dream of moving from the UK to Provence in France with his wife, and living in a remote 200-year-old stone farmhouse. He recounts his year of adapting to life in this country and enjoying everything it offers; the good and the not-so-good.This memoir was the forerunner of a very popular type of travel memoir, in which the author travels to and lives in another country to renovate an old house/pub/castle, start a job or relationship or undertake some other activity far removed from their normal life.
DOWN UNDER: BY BILL BRYSON
Most of Bill Bryson’s travel books are memoirs, as they each encapsulate a different country, or group of countries, he has visited.In this memoir, he relates his experiences travelling in Australia. I chose this book because it’s my home country. And would you believe it, I haven’t read it! A big oversight, which I am about to rectify. It’s always interesting to read an outsider’s view of your own country.
Personal Development Memoirs
In this type of memoir, the author gives the reader insight and information about a particular aspect of personal development – for example, how to achieve happiness, control anxiety and fear, be more mindful – through the lens of their own experiences.
THE HAPPINESS PROJECT: BY GRETCHEN RUBIN
Gretchen Rubin embarked on a year-long project to discover how to create true happiness, test-driving age-old wisdom, scientific research and lessons from popular culture.
MY YEAR OF LIVING MINDFULLY: BY SHANNON HARVEY
Overwhelmed with insomnia and an incurable autoimmune disease, Shannon Harvey set out to research and experience mindfulness, to try and improve her physical and mental well-being and transform her life.
In a business memoir, the author focuses on their business or career. They chronicle their path to professional success, which can include overcoming obstacles and failures, changing direction and discovering their true path in life.
SHOE DOG: BY PHIL KNIGHT
This memoir by the creator of Nike tells the story of beginning his shoe business with a $50 loan from his father, the risks he took and the setbacks he overcame to achieve his dream.
THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME: BY ROBERT IGER
Robert Iger took over the Walt Disney company in 2005, during a difficult time. He reveals how he turned it around to become the largest, most respected media company in the world, exploring what he regards are the necessary principles for true leadership.
Memoir Writing Services
That gives you a basic rundown of memoir types, and some suggestions of memoirs to read. Reading well-written memoirs on a topic similar to the one you want to write about is a sure-fire way of picking up some valuable ideas and tips for your own.
The next step in the memoir writing process is to find a writing service that fits your requirements. This can be yourself obviously, but there may be many reasons why you'd prefer someone else to do it for you.
And that's where I come in. Many of my clients have written parts of their memoir, sometimes as whole chapters or as bits and pieces of their story idea.
The reason they approach me is because they know how they want their memoir to look and read, and they need some help to turn it into the final product they have visualized.
So if you’ve got a burning desire to write your memoir, but don’t have the time or energy to complete it or do the whole thing yourself, I’d love to chat with you about writing it for you. Click the big button below to leave your details and let's get your project started.