Memoir, Writing, Writing the First Draft
Comments 16

To Memoir or Not to Memoir

A memoir is a series of moments.
In order to bring these moments to life,
it is necessary to create scenes that capture and communicate
the physical reality of the chosen moments.

  • Mark Matousek


The online memoir class I attended ended a few weeks ago. Thankfully though, the teacher listened to our pleas and have set up a check-in webinar.

I enrolled in the memoir class because the nagging book project has not materialized at all. A couple of years ago, I heard the call to write a book.  I told our teacher that I was literally dragging myself to memoir class because honestly, things are good in my life now and I see no need nor purpose to write a book. If I could just silence this calling…

I was fortunate to have a very patient and astute teacher. Inspite of my reluctance, I am one of those who signed up for the check-in in early December. Which means that I have been trying to write the first drafts of a few life stories.

One of the reasons why I continue along this path is because of the clarity that I gained from seeing my life stories as a string of events that composed my life. I have been journaling daily since I was in high school. Journaling has helped me deal with the issues and blows that life sent my way, but attempting to weave the stories into one coherent whole was truly empowering.

My classmates in memoir class had powerful stories and mine paled in comparison. In memoir class I realized that I had quite a blessed life. Our family had its share of troubles – our parents separated when we were young, and our mother struggled to raise us. But for every blow, there seemed to be a basket of blessings. This made it hard for me to believe that my life stories would be worth reading…it seemed ho hum compared to those of my classmates’ stories, which reeked with drama, suspense, and turbulence that spurred determination, courage, and tenacity.

Our teacher continued to encourage me though. In his response to my submission for the last assignment, he wrote  “As a seeker, healer, and writer, you have a great deal of wisdom and experience to share — in memoir or in other forms — and I trust that you’ll do exactly that. ”

Encouraging words indeed. That’s why we need teachers…they know how to push the right buttons to keep us writing.

The check-in webinar is a couple of weeks away, and I am still writing about my childhood, which I am now enjoying thoroughly. Maybe if I had learned how to journal in grade school, I wouldn’t have this much fun writing about the memories. As it is, recalling my childhood has been providing me with a resource of joy. I don’t know if this will amount to anything. For now, I am writing my life stories and enjoying the process. I will continue to seek guidance from our teacher.  Whether or not this will amount to a good memoir or not, really doesn’t matter at this point. I am writing, and I am having fun. What more can a writer ask for?

In his book, Write Your Memoir, Dr. Allan G. Hunter writes, “What has become clear…is that writing about one’s life or better still, writing the story of one’s life, causes change at a deep level. So profound is this process that it seems to be best described as Soul Work, since it moves each writer into a different relationship to him or herself and to the past. If you take on  this work, it will also alter your relationship to the world around you, which in turn provides an enhanced sense of what matters most in life.” He continues, “It’s a spiritual process, although it might not look like it when one watches a writer, day after day, at the desk.”


In real life, moments bleed into each other;
decisions begin as germs of feeling that evolve in subtle ways over time;
nothing is linear or strictly sequential.
Memoir is difficult for precisely this reason;
from shapeless life, we must carve out a shape;
from nebulous experience,
we’re called on to distill essential moments
that communicate the steps of our narrative.

Mark Matousek

Photo by Greg Rakozy via Unsplash


  1. I, for one, would love to read your memoir and learn how you came to be a healer and a seeker. The Mary Karr’s of the world are few and far between and while I am in awe of her book “The Liars Club”, reading more of the same has limited appeal. BUT, I also acknowledge and can personally attest to the healing magic of writing your own story. Even the small things I have written about force me to rethink events and people in my past. Thus, your concluding quote from Mark Matousek really sung for me: “…it moves each writer into a different relationship to him or herself and to the past.” So happy you’ve popped back into the blogosphere with your thoughtful posts. I wish you all the best in your memoir/life-story-telling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue, I’m just seeing now how the path to healing presented itself when I was still very young…and how that made me feel like I was beamed onto the wrong planet. It’s been a while since I’ve gone blog hopping, but I see that you have a memoir section, and that certainly is in my list of to-reads. I’ve always admired your style of writing. YOU should certainly write your memoir.


  2. It took me a VERY long time to get through this post. I kept stopping to daydream. About my own memoir. My own childhood. I wrote a fee tweets about how I was made to feel like a weirdo for being a daydreaming creative. It really is a spiritual process and I’ve been so afraid to go back and face the emotions so resistance to writing is strong. I’m finally ready because I can actually insert myself into the stories rather than being a pitfalls close witness. My favorite book O writing memoir is by Beth Kephart (Handling the Truth). I I like the quote you inserted. I’ll buy the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was a big day dreamer too! This is what I am remembering now, how I tried as a child to make my daydreams real. You could actually write about that aspect of your Self – the daydreaming aspect.
      You already have a substantial blog following – that goes to show that people like what you read…I’m glad you feel you are now ready to begin writing your memoir. You go, girl!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think my daydreams were a means of escape. I wanted to have a nicer family – like the ones on TV. To be loved like “Pa” loved Laura Ingalls Wilder (characters from a show called Little House on the Prairie). Mind you, I’m just remembering this now.

        Thank you! I’m feeling really positive about it. Worked on my memoir today, organizing chapters (temporarily) by person, etc. Created a list of research ideas. And started to pull in relevant pieces – like my college essay I wrote 20+ years ago when I was a teen mom.

        Best wishes on your project.


  3. Wonderful quotes, Rosanna, and I’m go glad your teacher was able to motivate you. I’m sure he was right about the wisdom and experience you have to share. 🙂 I fully understand Hunter’s description of memoir work as soul work. Keep writing and moving into clarity. I look forward to the read.


  4. Pingback: From Blogging to Writing a First Draft | Writing on the Pages of Life

  5. Pingback: The First Draft: Lessons learned (1) | Writing on the Pages of Life

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