Why Write Memoir? – There is Purpose in Your Words

May 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Memoir Space

Aldo Leopold Shack - Leopold, A Writer and Memoirist

Typically the Memoir Space doesn’t follow the monthly themes on the Calm Space – the themes don’t apply as readily to writing memoir as they do to the other Spaces. But when I read that this month’s theme was “purpose”, it seemed to be a good fit.

I’ve been asked questions about writing memoirs from friends, family, even complete strangers. “Why would I write down my life story. I haven’t anything important to share. Who would want to read about my life?” they ask.

So what is the purpose of writing stories about life, about writing memoir? Different reasons for different writers, but here are a few purposes:

  • Memoir writing can be therapeutic. Writing your way through a difficult period of life, or writing about the learning of a challenging life lesson can help put the experience into perspective.
  • Memoirs can provide teaching moments. A good memoir focuses on an event or series of events that evoke a change in the author — perhaps a change of view, a change of feelings, a change for better (or worse.)
  • Memoirs provide for personal sharing, for keeping certain moments alive in memory. This sharing need not be for a large audience; the writing may only be written for family members or friends. It may be a way of documenting a part of their lives, too. I recalled a poem I recently read that described a moment by a writer as he watched his words being read by another.

A day will come I’ll watch you reading this.
I’ll look up from these words I’m writing now—
this line I’m standing on, I’ll be right here,
alive again. I’ll breathe on you this breath.
~~ excerpt from the poem The One Certain Thing by Peter Cooley

Asking yourself why you choose to write about your memories makes a great writing prompt. Are you writing to resolve an old issue? Are you writing to share a major shift in your actions or way of thinking? Or like the poet, are you writing your story, even in a small way, for posterity?

Consider writing down your reasons and then making it a part of your memoir collection.

Photo Credit: Aldo Leopold Shack, © 2009 Bo Mackison

A note from Bo: Aldo Leopold was an American conservationist who authored the book The Sand County Almanac in the 1940s, the book usually credited with beginning the ecology movement. He was only writing anecdotes and his observations about nature for his own pleasure, and yet his writing inspired a new way of thinking and living. You never know…

The shack, Leopold’s beloved nature retreat from the city, is now a National Historic Landmark.


10 Responses to “Why Write Memoir? – There is Purpose in Your Words”
  1. Thank you once again, Bo, for yet another thought provoking post! And the shack photo, what a tranquil retreat it must have been for Aldo Leopold.

    When I began writing my memoirs last year, it was for the soul purpose of wanting to have a platform where I could voice my opinions and no one could answer me back, or disagree with me!

    I don’t believe it is neccessary to question who would want to read what you have written, it is far more important to write your memoirs for yourself. If another person enjoys reading them at some time, then that’s okay too.

    One thing I now know for sure…you can learn a lot about yourself when you begin writing! :)

  2. Bo Mackison says:

    I surely agree, Joanne. Writing for yourself is the essential.

  3. Hilary says:

    Hi Bo .. I wrote for my mother, my uncle and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all – no family ..who seemed to enjoy the subjects Mum and I were discussing at her hospital bed, then with Derek, my uncle the same applied .. now I’ve carried it on for me.

    I did write for me .. as obviously the subjects I selected I enjoyed – be it as subjects, as a learning curve etc and the positive feed back I received.

    Then the blog started along similar lines .. and now my readers love it .. and so do I still – it’s amazing stimulating and educating ..

    By the way – in due course .. in a few weeks .. I’ll be including a piece about Aldo Leopold Shack .. relative to the nature surveys I’ve reported on my blog .. I’ll let you know when .. & credit you with telling me about him ..

    Live and Learn .. is my motto – perhaps I should embrace that?!

    Have a good week .. all the best Hilary

  4. Bo Mackison says:

    Love that you’ll be writing about one of my literary friends, Mr. Leopold. He’s a real legend in my neck of the woods!

    And yes, it’s amazing how writing can make so many varied connections. A wonderful testimony to “getting it down.” Thanks.

  5. Debi says:

    I’m without speech, almost. You are inspirational, Bo. Writing a memoir has been on my list of Things To Do but 1) I’ve never gotten around to it and 2) I think, why? Who would ever want to read it? You’ve given me much to think about. Thank you, dear.

  6. Marcie says:

    I like the idea of recording one’s life..even if it’s only for yourself. Writing it down..gives you a way in which you can look back..and then forwards from there.

  7. Bo Mackison says:

    Aw Deb, you are so kind. Yes, there are always reasons not to write, but there are GREAT reasons to go ahead and get those words down on paper.

  8. Bo Mackison says:

    Marcie, I love that. Looking back and looking forward. Yes, it is exactly like that!