Memoirs- why write them?
Jane H Davis
Readers love stories that they can connect with,
we all have a story worth telling.
Why write a memoir? That was the question I pondered ever since my writing instructor, Alison, suggested that I should share my story. Really, I thought, who would want to read about me? She was pretty adamant that I would have a story that would hold interest for many. Alison was patient but persistent, “Jane, I don’t tell this to very many of my students, but you really do have a story that you need to tell the world!”
My original thoughts when taking the online writing class, “How to Write Your Life Story,” was sharing with my family my own story. I wanted them to know about me and what my life was about, my accomplishments, fears and even failures. I didn’t want to be remembered as an ancestry.com statistic… Name, birth date, and death date. I figured there was a bit more to me and maybe my grandchildren and great grandchildren would like to read it.
I thought about what Alison suggested for a long time as I knew this would be a huge undertaking. Where does one begin when talking about themselves? How do I hold the interest to those reading? First of all, I am a registered nurse and not an author! I struggled with coming up with a response and replied, “Alison, one writing class does not make a writer!” I was perplexed and I knew I needed help. She offered to work with me and help guide me with my writing skills. At first it was incredibly helpful and I relied on her heavily. She helped in what I like to call, fluffing my chapters. She had such a knack of making my words much more eloquent than I knew how to make them. But an interesting thing happened over time, she was not fluffing as much and soon I found that my writing skills were improving immensely! I finally decided to “fluff” on my own!
Even though I had been journaling most of my life and occasionally blogging, I had no idea the scope of this project! The first concern was, where do I start with my story? I knew if it was for my family I could start anywhere, but if it was going to be for a larger audience I had to make a decision about choosing a period of my life that would hold the most interest for my readers. I decided to limit it to a ten year period, beginning in 2001, just a few days before 9/11.
I really had no idea that I had so many memories/stories, but the more I sat down at my computer and typed, the more they floated to the surface. I was finding it very challenging as there were so many stories! I had to question everything; which were the important ones, and which ones should I let go? How much do I share as I worried my family would be hurt by some of it. I also had my own inner demons and sometimes too painful to even write, but I persevered and worked through it. An amazing thing happened; I found it quite cathartic and felt like I was healing myself the more I wrote.
A fellow blogger and memoir writer, Kathy Pooler, sums it up very well: It is a well-known fact in memoir writing circles that writing a memoir is a daunting task fraught with many challenges, not the least being: excavating painful memories, standing in your truth, and dealing with family members or close friends who may not agree with your perception of the truth. http://krpooler.com/blog/
In 2011, with the help of my favorite publisher, Frank Monahan of Rocket Science Productions gave me a deadline. “If you want this out by the ten year anniversary of 9/11, you have to have it all to me no later than early July!” Oh that was just what I needed! I am such a procrastinator and having Frank give me a deadline just pushed me to the finish line in record time. I was even a week ahead of schedule!
Would I do it again? I have thought about that many times: would my readers be interested in a bit more about “me” or should I venture out and write some fiction? I guess you will just have to wait and see!