Memoir writing and writing about memories have a lot in common. Both are introspective, healing projects. Here’s how writing about memories is an easier project.
It’s Easier to Get Started
It’s easier to start writing about your memories. The process of memory collection is much less formal than memoir writing. Though the quality of the memories and stories may be the same, but the framework is looser.
Memoirists look to convey a theme or story about their life. Many struggle with wondering if their story is important enough. Further, memoir writing requires greater technical writing skills. Ideally, your personal story will read like a novel. It will have a beginning that grabs the reader, pacing, climax, and character development. Writing about memories—simply collecting your stories, allows you to share with loved ones without worrying about the NY Times bestseller list.
You Don’t Have to Choose Your Memories
Memoir writing involves paring down memories to those that are most relevant to your journey. On the other hand, ordinary is fine for a simple collection of memories and family stories. When you’re simply writing about memories–recording the episodes of your past–you don’t have to figure out whether Memory A was more transformative than Memory B. You can include memories that weren’t firsts, tragic, or otherwise far from ordinary.
You can also throw in family stories and descriptions of relatives that had little or no bearing on your formative years.
Writing about Memories Allows You to Share along the Way
It’s easier to share a work-in-process memory collection than work-in-process memoir. You can share each memory individually or hold on to some or all of them until you’re ready to reveal them. (There’s more about this in my book.)
Choosing One of the Other
The good news is you don’t have to make a final decision about whether or not you want to write a memoir. You can start with writing down your stories. (And you should!) If you later decide to write a memoir, you’re that much farther along.
The resources for writing about memories and memoir writing are similar. Just because you’re not undertaking a memoir project, doesn’t mean you don’t want to improve your writing. Similarly, memory-collecting resources can assist memoirists with recall.
For instance, I recommend the Seasons of Our Lives series edited by women’s memoir writing coaches Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett. (It’s more than a collection of memories. After each memory, Matilda and Kendra give readers tips on what each writer did to make their story come alive.)
Likewise, both Matilda and Kendra have endorsed Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life. Kendra says, “If you dream of writing your story but don’t yet feel ready to tackle the memoir genre, Laura Hedgecock has a book full of creative ideas that will help you start small and easy. Memories of Me is your inspirational guide to memory writing (not to be confused with memoir writing)–an important distinction that helps to tame and scale the memoir into something quite approachable. Just as Laura delves into her grandmother’s treasure chest for story ideas, her book is a veritable goldmine of tips and exercises for finding your own stories.”
Preserve and share your memories however you choose to do it. Just get started.