Every life has drama: joy, loss, surprise, knowledge, conflict, wisdom—the stuff of memoir. Writing yours can be a treasured gift to your children, grandchildren and others because it tells them something eloquent about who you are and who they are. It can also be a gift to yourself by providing the motivation to look back on your life with wisdom and experience, discovering yourself anew.
Start simple. Write abut a trip, your first date or a teacher who changed your life. Other topics: your wedding or your divorce, the birth of a child, an illness, your grandmother, a friendship, a falling out. What you choose can be sad or funny, short or long. The only rule is that you choose a theme from your life and your heart.
Check out from the library or buy The Art of the Personal Essay by Philip Lopate. It contains nearly 800 pages of short, wonderful memoirs, any one of which might spark an idea of your own.
There is Joan Didion’s Goodbye To All That in which she writes, “Part of what I want to tell you is what it is like to be young in New York, how six months can become eight years with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve. For that is how those years appear to me now.”
Here, too, is Adrianne Rich in Split At The Root, describing her Jewish father and gentile mother, her ambivalence as a Jew and “the daily, mundane anti-Semitisms of my entire life. Split at the root, neither gentile nor Jew, Yankee nor Rebel, still trying to have it both ways.”
You’ve heard of many of the writers, others are strangers. But they all impart important wisdom, often delivered wryly. In Hubert Butler’s Aunt Harriet, for example,
He writes, “My mother said Aunt Harriet became a Christian Scientist because a certain Mr. Davis had failed to meet her under the clock on the platform at Kingbridge Station in Dublin.
The essays touch on events and themes that may resonate in your own life. Think of them and everything you read as a potential starting-point for your own work.
MORE TO COME