New Book by Celebrated Author Anna Quindlen Promotes Memoir Writing

Thumbnail of book Write for Your Life

Many people recognize the value of writing and sharing a memoir, but not everyone writes a whole book about it. In her 2022 book, Write for Your Life, celebrated columnist and author Anna Quindlen lists all the reasons to appreciate memoirs.

You have a unique, interesting story to tell, so please write it down, Quindlen urges. Write it for yourself, and write it to share with others. From Anne Frank to the Freedom Writers to anyone who’s ever found comfort in writing and, particularly, memoir writing, we have ample proof that expressing yourself through writing is a worthy pastime.

Memoir Helps You and Your Readers

First, the process of writing about yourself in your own voice benefits you. The continuum Quindlen identifies is that writing causes reflection, which leads to understanding, which leads to happiness. It’s simplified and overstated, but I love that she promotes memoir writing in those terms. Reflecting on your life and maybe interviewing people who know you, and then writing it all down, enlightens you in so many ways. And while I’m not sure Quindlen can guarantee that this new understanding will bring you happiness, I have seen memoir writing become cathartic for people working through trauma or just learning how they’ve arrived at a place in their life.

Quindlen points out that sharing your life story can help strangers who have faced the hardships you faced. For family, your story can provide a history of their own heritage. Friends will enjoy learning more about you. If you’re a woman or a person of color, writing your memoir is even more important, maintains Quindlen, who notes that nearly all the history we know was written by white men. It’s through their lens that we’ve been told the history of everyone. It’s time to pass the pen.

She notes that what gets written down gets remembered. This is so true. If you journal or enjoy corresponding with someone, you can go back and read what you wrote to make it come alive again. Sometimes we tell stories over and over, and then some years go by and we forget some of the details. Write down your family stories, and then you won’t have rely on one person’s memory.

Full Review on Goodreads

I take issue with Quindlen’s whining about the disappearance of handwritten letters. For me, neither the handwriting nor the hard copy carries enough benefits to outweigh the efficiency of keyboarding and email, not to mention how many trees we’re saving.

Click here to read the full Write My Memoirs review of Write for Your Life on Goodreads.

More Services Coming to Write My Memoirs Authors

blank, open book and pencil

We have some exciting announcements! You have always been able to write your memoir in your free account here on Write My Memoirs. That courtesy will remain! Keep your writing in your account, and access it from anywhere, anytime.

For many years we’ve also offered writing services to Write My Memoirs authors as well as to the general public. We’ll edit your work or ghostwrite your book for you, and you retain all rights, of course. When your manuscript is ready, we provide self-publishing services that include layout and simple cover design.

All of that will continue. So what’s new?

We want to make your dream of writing a memoir come true. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, and that’s where we’ll soon be adding services. How should you begin Chapter One? Which stories should you include? Should you follow a chronological structure or jump around throughout your life?

These questions can trip you up, but we’re very familiar with the struggles memoir authors face and how to get over the hurdles. Some questions have easy answers, while others will take a conversation to help you make decisions. There is no best way to write a memoir, but there may be a best way for you to write yours. We’ll help you identify it.

We’ll supply motivation, too, not only by giving you specific assignments and checking in with you, but also by doing some editing and organizing as you proceed. Seeing your book come to life little by little motivates you to continue even when other demands are competing for your time.

Through our new packages, you’ll be able to select the “soup to nuts” option, just the “front end” of coaching or, as now, only the editing or the self-publishing. If you’re just sitting down now to write your memoir, we can have you holding your book in your hand one year from now.

If you want to get a head start, fill out our Contact Us form and let us know your vision for your book. We can’t wait to work with you, and we think that’s very exciting!

May Is Creative Beginnings Month—Perfect Time to Start or Restart Your Memoir!

Creativity Month man with paints and pens

By May, many of our New Year’s resolutions have long gone stagnant. With next New Year’s a long way off, I can suggest a different calendar trigger to get back to your memoir or other writing project. Guess what? May is Creative Beginnings Month!

Facts About Creative People

Are you creative? At Write My Memoirs, we believe everyone is creative. You’re creative if you develop computer code. You’re creative if you’re raising children. You’re creative if you decorate a room, cook a dinner, plant a garden or figure out why your car won’t start. Check out these factoids about creative people and creativity, which we’ve adapted from a National Today list:

  • Take a shower! Up to 72% of people have creative insights while they’re in the shower.
  • Spend some alone time. Creativity thrives in solitude. While collaboration is fun and group work can help, it is when you’re alone that you engage in constructive internal reflection, which boosts creativity.
  • Let yourself daydream! Studies have long shown that daydreaming provides a sort of mental incubation period for more creative thinking to come.
  • Imagination isn’t creativity. You might think of imagination and creativity as synonyms, but “imagination” refers to thinking about something that doesn’t exist, while “creativity” is more about making an idea a reality.
  • Don’t worry about messiness. Some research indicates that messy or cluttered spaces can help the brain focus on the bigger picture and boost creativity. A lot of creative people have trouble keeping their spaces tidy.

History of the “Holiday”

It may be a celebration without a lot of celebrating, but spring brings that fresh beginning anyway, so it’s great timing. Here’s what National Today says about Creative Beginnings Month:

“There are varying opinions on the origins of creativity. Some claim it began back in the days when humans made tools for hunting, while others say it started with Australian Aborigines and the invention of the boomerang. Many even state that creativity can be traced back thousands of years ago to the stone age when people carved inscriptions and drawings on the walls of caves. Another report claims that creativity and the art of creation started with the people of Egypt and Mexico. It is also said that ancient creativity comes from Asian countries like India, Iran, Cambodia, etc.”

The website further notes that this month is celebrated by several countries across the globe. “We celebrate Creative Beginnings Month so that people can awaken their hidden creative skills,” it continues. “Each person uses creativity differently and in their own way. There are a plethora of options for how you can celebrate the month of creative beginnings! This is the perfect time to get over that creative block you’ve been facing, resume a project that you’ve been putting off, or simply start a project you promised yourself you would. It can be simple, complex, fun, serious, or anything.”

Creative Beginnings of Writing Your Memoir

Coming to WriteMyMemoirs.com is a great first step for getting your memoir on track! We have suggestions to inspire your creative flow, and we’re happy to help with the writing as you proceed, the editing along the way, and the self-publishing when you’ve finished.

So how do you start? Write one sentence. Then write another. Before you know it, you have a paragraph. Write another paragraph. Before you know it, you have a chapter. Write another chapter. Before you know it, you have a memoir. It’s just like any other journey: one step at a time.

One More Time: Yes, Your Life Story Is Worthy of a Memoir

man kissing his reflection

There’s no greater incidence of imposter syndrome than among memoir authors. When your first book is a memoir, not only can you question whether you’re a “real author” but also whether your topic is important enough for a book. The question of worthiness comes up time and again. Is my life interesting enough to fill a memoir? Why would anyone want to read about me?

By definition, your life is unique. There’s only one you. We language nerds never use the term “more unique” or “less unique,” because “unique” means “one of a kind” without adding a descriptor. So I won’t say that some lives are less unique than others, but certainly some lives, while unique, have fewer dramatic moments or seem to follow more typical patterns. They’re kind of ordinary. So let’s look at both extremes.

Unusual Lives

The most common reason people give for writing a memoir is that they’ve lived through a difficult event or time and want to write it out for cathartic reasons or to help the next person facing the same crisis. This can be any life challenge—an abusive childhood, harsh poverty, a health condition, an escape from a dangerous political environment, anything.

The opposite exceptional life—privilege or fame—also motivates people to write a memoir. Simply chronicling how the person acquired wealth or became famous supplies the author with a story that people will read.

In both cases, the compelling plot drives the narrative. How did this start? What came next? The idea is to make it a page-turner. If you’ve had something significant and uncommon happen to you, or if you’ve chosen to take a road less traveled, I can assure you that your life is interesting enough to write about.

Ordinary Lives

Now let’s say you’ve had a life much like the lives of everyone else you know. You’d like to document the facts of your life, but you have a hard time picturing anyone except your family wanting to spend time reading about your picket-fence family life, your desk job with its periodic promotions, your golf hobby or your volunteer activities in your community.

First, at Write My Memoirs we often get requests for second and third printings from our self-publishing authors because of the person’s initial underestimate of how many friends and acquaintances will ask to read the memoir. People who know you even only through social media can be curious to read about your life.

Second, let me ask you something. What are your favorite TV shows? Maybe “Stranger Things” or “Law & Order” is on your list, but many of the most popular shows, both comedies and dramas, center on ordinary people like you and a family or professional life like yours. The incidents may be exaggerated, but from “Family Ties” and “Family Matters” to “Friends,” “Modern Family,” “This Is Us” and both versions of the “The Wonder Years,” the shows are relatable to viewers specifically because they ring true; you recognize your own life in the lives of the characters.

For the memoir of a more ordinary life, the plot isn’t what drives the page-turning. It’s the way the life is presented. Humor can entertain, warmth in telling your story can engage readers and, most important, being candid and honest makes readers trust you and enjoy what you have to tell.

Writing is the Key Ingredient

So if you’re looking for a recipe for a great memoir, it isn’t really the story. The key ingredient is the writing. Use strong verbs. Paint visual pictures so the reader is right there with you. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t leave holes that readers can’t fill in by themselves. Develop your own writing style, and be consistent with it.

You’ve lived the life you’ve lived. No one else has lived it. Telling what that life was about from your point of view will make a fine memoir. You just have to sit down and write it!

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself This Year to Write Your Memoir

New year, new writing project, right? Or the same old writing project—probably your memoir—that maybe this year you will finally start, continue, or finish. Let this be that year. Choose your motivation among these five!

1. Get inspired by other memoir authors who are just like you

You are no different from the tons of people who decide to document their lives. Some are professional writers, but many are not. Some are celebrities with built-in followers, but most are not. Some want to sell their books, while others want to tell their story just for their family to have. Some are skilled at language, but many need editors to smooth out the rough edges.

The important thing is that you are just as worthy of having a memoir as they are.

There’s only one difference between you and those authors: they sat down and wrote. All you have to do is that. Make the time today. Make the time tomorrow. A half-hour or whatever you can spare. Soon you’ll have a chapter, and maybe by the end of the year you’ll have a full manuscript to submit to an editor, run by an agent, or self-publish as is.

2. Get inspired by people who are more challenged than you.

I compete in track meets so I have to train regularly to continue to do that, but I don’t really enjoy running. Sometimes I just want to give up—the way you probably want to just give up on your writing project. How do I turn myself around?

The best way for me is to see someone around my age who can’t walk or has cognitive impairment or faces depression or some other challenge. I’m in my late 60s and can still run. That makes me grateful enough to take advantage of it. At any time I might sustain an injury or be diagnosed with an illness. As long as I can function, I should make the most of that.

You can do the same. Maybe you’re not the greatest writer in the world, but there are people who can’t sit at a keyboard. We had one client who’d had a brain injury and couldn’t get his memories and thoughts straight, and it was so frustrating for him. If you CAN write, DO write. It’s a gratitude thing.

3. Get inspired by your own story in your own voice.

If you don’t write your story, who will? It’s such a powerful life statement to say, “Yes, my life is worth documenting.” Whether it’s ordinary or unusual, it’s your unique life. Friends and family will remember you, but their memories will be shaped by their own perceptions. Only you can provide the “inside story” of how your life was lived.

It’s special. Do it!

4. Get inspired by the people you’re leaving behind.

Do you wish you’d asked your parents or grandparents more questions about their lives? Maybe you’d like to know how it was to live before all of our 21st century technology, or what their city was like when they were growing up. Perhaps you are not sure how the family relationships played out or maybe even how you’re related to some of your family.

Your children and grandchildren, or maybe nieces and nephews or friends’ children, will have the same questions. You can give them all the details, the backstories, your impressions of your time and place. They will be so happy to have all of that. Draw motivation simply from the love you feel for the people around you.

5. Get inspired by the feeling of achievement.

Maybe your memoir will become a best-selling book or your life story will be turned into an iconic movie. It can happen!

Even if the only people who read your book are you and your family, the achievement of writing a book, being an author, having a hard copy to hand out to people—it’s priceless. Find out what it feels like to BE AN AUTHOR!

Bonus motivation

One more thing: we’ll help you. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and ask questions in our Facebook Write My Memoirs Group. We would love to get to know you, receive your feedback, and have you join the Write My Memoirs community of authors just like you.

Limiting the Focus of Your Memoir

Although I think it’s fine to use the words “memoir” and “autobiography” interchangeably, traditionally a memoir traces only a segment of your life, not your entire life the way an autobiography does. As I wrap up my time at the 2019 National Senior Games, which I hope you’ve been following on Instagram @writemymemoirs (also will soon post some on the Write My Memoirs page on Facebook), I’m thinking about all of the great stories these older athletes have to tell. When you have a defining hobby like sports competition, you can craft a memoir just around that.

The facts are handy—in the case of the Senior Games, the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) keeps all of the results online. U.S. Track and Field (USTAF), another sports competition organization, does the same. At this year’s Senior Games, there also are videos posted on YouTube by ProView Networks. The athletes tend to bring family members who take lots of pictures. Put it all together, and much of the research for a memoir like this is already at the author’s fingertips. To fill in the words, you go back into your memories of each medal you won, every city in which you competed, all of the friends you made and the inspiration you felt. I think the writing comes easier and is more enjoyable than with other types of memoirs that may require recalling painful incidents and challenges to overcome.

So think about some lifelong or recently discovered activity that has made a difference in your life. It might be something that you take for granted. Maybe everyone tells you what a great cook you are. You can build a memoir around food, family meals and the joy that brings you. Perhaps you have a specific hobby like photography, birdwatching or attending estate or “garage” sales. You may be in a bowling league that has met weekly for several decades, or you’ve participated in various book clubs over the years. This type of limited-topic memoir can be very interesting both to your family and to people engaged in a similar activity. It also can inspire other people to get involved with something they can love as much as you love yours. As always, we would love to help you bring your memoir to life! Email me at rosanne@writemymemoirs.com.

Join our “Memoirs Live” Online Memoir Writing Group – for FREE!

We’re excited to announce our new Write My Memoirs Support Group! It’s a virtual audio/video meet-up that you can join from your computer or your phone. Let’s do some Q&A.

When does this start?
We’re aiming for the end of June 2019.

How often will the group meet?
We’ll hold two 1-hour meetings a week. One will be scheduled on a weekday in the daytime, and the second one will be on a weeknight in the evening or possibly on the weekend (all U.S. time zones, but all countries are welcome to participate).

How many participants will there be?
We’ll keep it small, capping it at 15 participants for any session. But these are opt-in meetings; some people may want to join only once a week or even once a month. So each meeting may have just a handful of people. We’ll have to see how that goes.

What will we do at the meetings?
We’re there to offer each other support in writing our memoirs. Some of the discussion will focus on motivation. I will facilitate these meetings. I’m a professional writer and writing coach and an expert in grammar, so I can answer questions or give a quickie lesson if appropriate. Participants who want critiques can read passages or perhaps submit a passage beforehand that I can share by email with the group to save the reading time at the session.

Do I have to download an app to participate?
No! We’re going to use a brand new platform, Spoka Meet, that emails you a link. Just click on the link and you’re in the meeting.

What’s the technology like?
We’re really excited that through Spoka Meet we’re able to bring you a high-quality experience. It will feel as if we’re all in a room together, with our faces lined up at the bottom and sharing a whiteboard as the main focus. You can choose to turn the video on or off. You can just type out chat if you prefer not to speak. So you could even do this on a public computer in a library, listen in on your phone in the car—lots of options.

You said it’s free?
This first offer is FREE! Get in all summer for lifetime free membership. If this helps people, in the fall we’ll begin offering it as a fee-based service, but the cost will always be very low.

How do I join?
Let me know you’re interested by emailing me at: rosanne@writemymemoirs.com and I will stay in touch until we have the exact dates nailed down. Then you’ll receive the email link to enter the conversation.

Hope to see you at Memoirs Live!

What You Can Learn From Olivia de Havilland

We all want to own our legacies, but we’re not fully in control of that. The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it would not consider 102-year-old “Gone With the Wind” actress Olivia de Havilland’s claim that a TV show needed her permission to present her likeness and character. The FX miniseries “Feud: Bette and Joan,” was based on the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. In it, Catherine Zeta-Jones portrayed de Havilland as somewhat of a gossip, which the elder actress found offensive. The Supreme Court let stand a California appeals court’s decision that de Havilland had no say in how she was depicted in art. The decision read in part: “Whether a person portrayed in one of these expressive works is a world-renowned film star—‘a living legend’—or a person no one knows, she or he does not own history. Nor does she or he have the legal right to control, dictate, approve, disapprove, or veto the creator’s portrayal of actual people.”

You’re probably not famous, and you most likely will not find yourself portrayed as a character in a movie or TV show. But you still could be mentioned in someone’s memoir. Right now, someone who knows you could be writing up an account of your actions. Maybe in that person’s eyes you were the unfair boss, nerdy cousin or mean girl in high school, while you recall a completely different dynamic to the relationship between the two of you. Go to any of the memoir discussions on social media, and a common question is: Should I change the names of the people I include in my memoir? The thing is that changing the name doesn’t necessarily hide the identity. People who know the author are likely to recognize the person whether the name is real or not.

Sometimes these authors will approach the people and ask whether they mind being included in the memoir. If you’re approached, you can always plead with the author not to include you. That may work, or it may not. Sometimes all the author is doing is giving you a little advance notice, but the mention is a done deal. So what can you do? Write your own story. Own your truth. Provide the narrative of your life as you recall it. That way, you’ll at least have your version and, unlike Olivia de Havilland, won’t have to ask the Supreme Court to decide whether you’re a gossip or just a really open person.

Get Social With Write My Memoirs!

Write My Memoirs is popping up all over social media. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @writemymemoirs! In addition to the Write My Memoirs page on Facebook, there’s the brand new Write My Memoirs Group. Let’s get together in this group to share our hopes and dreams, challenges and frustrations, laughter and tears—everything that’s part of the deal when you’re writing a memoir or, really, any book.

I’ll be among the people you can find hanging out in the Write My Memoirs Group. I’ve been a professional journalist for 40+ years, I taught grammar and writing for 20 years and I’m also an admin on Facebook’s Grammar Matters. You can find more of my interests by following Rosanne Ullman on Pinterest, where I’m just starting to build boards.

In the Write My Memoirs Group on Facebook, I’ll be happy to answer your grammar questions, coach you on your writing and motivate you to finish your memoir. Let’s do all of that for each other! I invite English language experts to help me inspire all authors, including those whose first language is not English. Is your New Year’s resolution to start—or finish—your memoir? The question of resolutions was brought up today in the Write My Memoirs Group, so please join and share! Get others’ feedback by posting brief excerpts or full chapters from your writing, and turn around to do the same for them. I can’t wait to see what you’re working on!

 

Why Young People Write Memoirs

The founder of Write My Memoirs was in his 60s when he figured out that people about his age needed a good website to anchor their memoir writing. In more recent years, we’ve noticed a trend—people much younger than their 60s also are joining and engaging with Write My Memoirs. It seemed odd at first. How much life is there to write about after only 20, 30 or even 40 years? The answer to that lies in the very heart of what a memoir is.

“Every event, and certainly every event worth writing about, will always remain tattooed on our neurons,” writes biographer Benjamin Moser in a New York Times article, “Should There Be a Minimum Age for Writing a Memoir?” Moser says it’s never too early to start writing about those events for the simple purpose of keeping a record. He calls it an “homage we pay ourselves.”

In the same article, young novelist and essayist Leslie Jamison makes a similar case for capturing the memory while it’s still fresh. “The narratives we tell about our own lives are constantly in flux,” she notes. “Our perspectives at each age are differently valuable. What age gains in remove it loses in immediacy: The younger version of a story gets told at closer proximity, with more fine-grain texture and less aerial perspective.”

In the article “Why Should You Write Your Memoir?” in Psychology Today, researcher Diana Raab reports her findings from interviews she conducted for her book, Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life. Younger people told her pretty much the same thing we hear from older memoir authors: they felt they had a story to share and wanted to tell it in their own voice, from their own perspective. “Additional reasons to write a memoir include preserving a family’s legacy, learning more about one’s ancestors, a search for personal identity, gaining insight into the past or healing from a traumatic experience,” Raab adds.

Our experience at Write My Memoirs is that our older authors look back on their entire lives and choose stories they consider worthy of inclusion in their memoir. The driving factor is the writing—a desire to write about their life. With younger people, the story itself is what drives the idea. Something distinctive, good or bad, happens to them and they want to make sure the story gets told. It’s a subtle difference, but we notice that age does influence how you present your memoir.

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Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for that extra commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. SCHEDULE A CALL TODAY if you’d like to talk about what’s right for you. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!