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Is It Worth Your Time To Write A Memoir?

Guest writer Denis Ledoux has been assisting people to write personal and family stories (since 1988) and training the memoir professionals who work with them (since 1996). For your free memory jog question book, go to http://thememoirnetwork.com.

“Worth the time to write?” I repeated—raising my voice into a question—when a man said to me recently that most people didn’t have a memoir that was worth their time to write.

“Not only is every life worth writing about,” I countered, “but the writing of a memoir is a healing and developmental process for the writer. There is something precious in the telling of every tale.”

“I don’t know about the healing,” he said, “but I do know that most people haven’t done anything interesting enough to write about, let alone have someone else read it.”

“I don’t think children and grandchildren feel that way,” I answered. “I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t happy to have a memoir of a father or mother.”

“Well, okay,” he conceded, “but who else is interested?”

“The breadth of the audience is not what makes the writing of a memoir significant. There is worth in the telling itself.”

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There continues to be an insatiable hunger to know about one’s family and culture. Writing a memoir is a meaningful way one generation can transmit stories to another.

In the man’s commentary, of course, there is an important point to consider. If one has not led a momentous life, are there things one can do if one wishes to write a memoir that goes beyond the interest of a small family readership?

Let me emphasize that it is appropriate to write stories solely to family readership. There is nothing “wrong” with a small audience. The value of any piece of writing is not measured by how many people—total numbers—have read it. This emphasis on size is a spin-off of the commercialization of worth. It is a result of the creation and promotion of the “superstar” in our culture.

But the true worth of a memoir is better measured by the inherent value to the writer and to its selected audience. The act of writing will change you and your relationship to your life. Writing is significant for itself.

Begin writing your memoir today!

Want to find a literary agent for your memoir—an advocate who will help you submit your memoir to major publishing houses? Writer’s Relief helps writers of memoirs get published by managing the submission process and targeting the best literary agents and editors who want to read true stories.

Questions for WritersQUESTION: If you wrote a memoir, who do you think would read it? Would it appeal to anyone outside of your friends and family?

6 Responses to Is It Worth Your Time To Write A Memoir?

  1. Sylvia, author intrusion can happen in fiction, memoir, essay, etc. Author intrusion happens when the reader is distracted by something the author is doing behind the scenes, such as abruptly inserting a backstory, adding a preachy note in the description, or addressing the reader directly. It is an older literary device that is uncommon in modern literature.

  2. “One Cup Rice,” a collection of life stories of one woman’s journey, is a self-published book. Initially written as a legacy of love for my children and grandchildren, the book has touched readers from the Continental USA, Europe, and Asia. Currently, this octogenarian enjoys an active life through presentations at senior citizen’s groups, encouraging them to leave their unique “Legacy of Love.” Also, school visits encouraging children to read and write their stories have been most satisfying and provides a secondary gain for me–young ideas for my writing of children’s stories. Book signings and Story-A-Thons (readings) are always enjoyable–meeting people who become yet another grain of rice in my “One Cup Rice.” “…my cup runneth over.”

  3. I’m writing a memoir and I believe that if the memoir has a universal hook, or interest, then it can have an audience which includes more than your family.I have a memoir question for you. Is it possible to have author intrusion in a memoir or does that only happen in fiction?

  4. Hi,
    Im writing a memoir of the demise of my marriage. Im going under a psuedo name also places. I was just wondering if you could tell me if legally Im ok.
    By the way my ex husband is a lawyer.
    Just to let you know also its not a book of pure conviction on his part.
    Many thanks

  5. I love reading memoirs! I think the breadth of appeal is greater than most may think. I have been reading Anne Lamott’s books this summer. Even though her life has been far different than mine, there are many aspects I can relate to. I feel like I’ve gotten to know her. Her insightful words speak to me. Reading a memoir is a way of living vicariously. There is much to learn from the experiences of others.

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