Write Your Memoirs, At Least A Few

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!

Memoir Writing

I think one of the greatest legacies a parent can leave for their children is their life story. This is why I teach a memoir writing workshop in the community every Wednesday morning. Yes, I get a small stipend for teaching the workshop, but that isn’t my primary reason for doing it. I get great delight in helping the members of the class to recall their lives and put them down on paper, for family, friends, and others to enjoy.

We are all put down in a running river of life: our families came before us, and more will follow, but we live for a moment in that river, live a life that no one else lives. Our lives are worth recording, if only to preserve our memories. But there is another reason: our lives will never be repeated. Our times will never be repeated. So often, I have to tell members in my class that people no longer know about things that were commonplace in their lives: from one-room schoolhouses to automated cafeterias, to chokes on cars or “pinning” your girl.

Each life is unique and each should be captured on paper. Not all must be published, but they should be shared. Future generations will enjoy these personal snapshots of life.