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Memoir Writing Matters

Overview: We do we write about ourselves?

Just like our fingerprints, we are all unique being. Society, culture and convention tell us how we should be. Beneath that, there is how we are, which may be a little different. Less conventional. Surprising, even to us, when we allow ourselves to be surprised.

Memoir workshop group.
Wanda Hennig talks memoir and mindfulness in Berlin, Germany.

Our best stories can be heartfelt and elements of them are often buried. Until we open to them, we can be unaware of them, their magic, their secrets, their humor, their wisdoms.

We often get caught up in how things should be, shouldn’t be, or in stories of how things “are”—when in fact there are layers waiting to be explored and discovered. When we touch into these places, it makes our own journey so much more interesting. So much more enlightening.

  • It can free us up. Liberate us. Sharing our journey, or story, our experiences with others can be a rare gift to ourselves and to others.
  • We can write about ourselves to understand, to remember, to record, to share…
  • To honor and value the lives we’ve lived so far.
  • We may choose simply to journal as memoir. Or we may use journaling as a transformational tool.
  • We may choose to share (publish), which in turn can liberate others, give them permission, help them understand themselves.
  • We may write about ourselves in novels and as fiction.
Memoir and Mindfulness workshop group
Cheers! Celebrating ourselves after our memoir workshop in Berlin.

Your memoir could be about a period of your life. Your childhood. A turning point. A challenge (health, mental or physical, for example). A metaphorical (or real) mountain you’ve scaled, crested or conquered. A relationship. A passion. A love affair. A marriage. Becoming a mother. A death. Something that marked your life. School days. Boarding school days. Your relationship with your mother. A sibling. An overseas trip that impact/defined an aspect of your life.

It can be about one of our three primary relationships (with thanks to David Whyte): with ourselves, our work, or a significant other.

One can write memoir around travel, food, drink. Memoir can help us find meaning in our lives. Give meaning to elements of it.

You can write memoir intending to publish and to share. If this is your intention, it is wise to start as if you’re writing it purely for yourself. You don’t want the editor or the eyes of your potential reader drilling into you and influencing you, given that the key to memoir is to feel free, to go deep; to explore…

  • “The memoir is looking at the powerful moments in your life. Not at the facts of your life, which is autobiography.” —Larry Habegger, Book Passages Travel Writers and Photographer Conference (2011).
  • “To be meaningful to the reader, the story must have meaning for you. If you’re writing and there’s deep meaning for you, it can become a universal thing.” —Larry Habegger, Book Passages conference.

Read about Wanda Hennig and her memoir, Cravings.