Thinking of writing a memoir? You won’t want to skip this article written by Keith Connes, who is at the 60-year point (give or take) in his burgeoning career as a professional writer.
Keith started in radio, then became a TV-commercial writer for several major New York agencies. This enabled him to buy an airplane and morph into aviation writing. He’s now crafting more general articles, humor pieces, and short fiction and thinks he’ll stay put with those until he reaches the age of 100, which should be any day now.
Write a memoir. It doesn’t matter whether you are a beginning writer or a seasoned pro—or even if you don’t consider yourself to be a writer at all. Write a memoir to present the gift of your inner self to your family, friends, and perhaps a wider audience. You might publish only a few dozen copies for a very limited distribution, but then again, a really compelling story could become the propellant that launches your writing career.
A basic writer’s axiom advises you to “write what you know,” and what could be more familiar to you than an episode in your own life? And here’s what makes it so special: A memoir can give your loved ones a greater insight into who you are and how you got to be who you are—your thoughts, your feelings, your adventures through life, and the things you learned along the way.
And you don’t have to wait until your sunset years; you can write a memoir at any age. You can do it now.
Let me be clear as to what I mean by “memoir.” Some people may think of the word “memoir” as meaning an autobiography. Well, yes, an autobiography is a very extensive memoir, taking in the entire life of the subject, but a memoir can also be just a small nugget of that person’s existence—a series of reminiscences or even a single recollection. So it’s not that daunting a task.
Even so, would your memoir really be that valuable to others? Well, think of somebody who is important to you—your mother, father, grandparent, friend—and even though you’ve known that person for years or decades, you sense that there are aspects of that person’s life that you don’t know about and wish you did. Not necessarily skeletons in the closet, but—well, wouldn’t it be fun to know that Grandma always wanted to be a trapeze artist but somehow never got around to it?
My best friend since high school was, for most of his adult life, a sales executive whose high-powered drive enabled him to found and manage several insurance companies. I thought I knew him pretty well, but I was astonished when he sent me a book of sensitive and lovely poetry that he had written! I saw an aspect of Frank I had never suspected, and my respect and admiration for him became even greater.
Well, you may not be a secret poet or even a wannabe trapeze artist, but aren’t there some unrevealed parts of you that you wouldn’t mind sharing but you haven’t gotten around to it, or maybe you’re just a little shy about it?
Write it down. Write your memoir. If it seems too daunting, you have a tape recorder—everybody has at least one. Go to a quiet place, turn the recorder on, and speak your thoughts. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation—just talk. You can fix it later.
If it would help get the thoughts flowing, sit down with someone you feel comfortable with and start chatting about a topic for your memoir. Can’t find enough quiet time? Do it in the car. Let others talk into their cell phones. What you’re doing is for posterity!
Regardless of where your memoir begins, it can take on a life of its own—because it is, after all, your own life.
Write your memoir. Do it for the ones you love, for yourself, and maybe for some great-great-grandchildren you will never know. But, through your memoir, they will get to know you.
At Writer’s Relief, we’ve been helping writers publish their novels, poetry, and short fiction—and yes, even their memoirs—since 1994. Let us know if you’re ready to submit your own story!
Keith, your post is very timely – the holiday season is great for getting those stories written down for your favorite family members. My memoir, Off Kilter, is told from my point of view but has remembrances of others as well. It was an experience I’ll never regret.