A few years ago, I stopped sharing stories with some of my family members. Although they were well-intentioned, a couple people in my life insisted on critiquing my memory of stories from childhood. Instead of listening to the story and appreciating what I remember, they instead dedicated their energy to listing off the 547 reasons that my memory stinks because I remember my step-dad’s truck as white instead of red.
After being interrupted and criticized on several occasions, I gave up trying. Why would anyone want to share their memories with people who lack interest and curiosity? No writer wants to sit in that corner.
Writing memoir pieces, whether they are individual pieces or collective pieces, is deeply challenging work for any writer. The reflective aspect of memoir writing requires an inner strength to identify memories worth preserving, self-evaluate events for their value, and compose those events into a logical format that others can relate to.
Yet, any memoirist faces the criticism from multiple directions. Many writers, in any genre, maintain considerations of how their work will be received while holding a barrier around their work to protect it from exterior criticism. The balance is a challenge.
Some memoirists need distance from the other people involved in their lives in order to capture their authentic memories from their own viewpoint. Getting enough mental space is one step; accepting that not everyone will agree with one version of the truth is another.
What memoirists need is a code of affirmation to lean on during the days when Aunt Maisie lists the 42 ways you got your facts mixed up, because obviously, her memory is far superior to everyone else’s recollections.
Memoirists need a bill of rights—a list of certain truths that support the intense work that memoir writing requires. We need a solid, certain guarantee that no matter how many nails are bitten away during the hours spent entrusting personal recollections to paper, that the story will hold true. We need a bill of rights, because writing about our lives is gut-wrenching work that requires us to muster bravery by the bucketful.
On-Demand Instruction Presents: A Memoirist's Bill of Rights
1. Your stories are valid and valuable.
Get started writing your memoir with Letters to the Future.
Have you thought about writing your personal stories to save for family and friends?
Has the thought of writing your memoir intimidated you?
Letters to the Future: The Simple Guide for Writing Your Memoir is a step-by-step guidebook that can help anyone collect their personal stories for a memoir.
ODI seeks to provide emerging writers with useful resources to get your writing moving forward.