I continue to teach my Memoir Writing Workshops in San Diego, and each week I am struck anew by how important it is for each of us to write our memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether we write to publish, but we should write not to perish.
Our stories can be the greatest legacy we give to our children, or to those who come after us. No two people have the same story; it’s simply impossible. Each of us has been dropped into the river of time, within a family, within a legacy already written. We each then go on to form our own legacies, and that is the gift that we can give to others.
I am as guilty as most people who think, who cares? My kids won’t be interested. I’ll just be writing for myself. But when I listen to the stories in my classes, I realize the treasure being conveyed. Stories about the author, about the family that came before and the family that they joined. If not now, then later, these stories will be valued beyond the writer’s greatest expectations, because they will be a piece of the writer, a touch with what has passed.
My class members write about their first encounter with spouses, about moments of great childhood pain that imprinted the adult, and about people in the family long gone, bringing them, if only briefly, back into the flow of time, remembering that they existed and mattered for one moment. What more can any of us ask?
Take the time, as I vow to do, to write about your life. You don’t have to write chronologically. Just jump into a moment in your life and write. Whatever you put to “paper,” your family will enjoy. And if you never share it, at least you will relive the memory and the moment. You don’t have to write about the dark times, not if it’s still too painful. Write, instead, about a childhood triumph, even if it’s one only you know about or might remember. Or write about a fear that haunted, but was then overcome. Or about that game where you made the difference. This can be cathartic, but it can also be invigorating. Remember the you you used to be? Reclaim yourself, as you remember yourself. And live the you you once knew. I dare you!