A lot of people would like to write a memoir but feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the task, because neither are they writers by profession nor do they write as a hobby. In fact, may people who would like to have a memoir don’t enjoy writing at all. Can someone like that still be the author of an autobiography? Absolutely. If you can talk, you can write!
Picking up from the past two blog posts, we’re spending a few weeks here discussing an essay by William Zinsser on memoir writing. In this passage from his essay, Zinsser tells how his father wrote a memoir:
“My father, a businessman with no literary pretensions, wrote two family histories in his old age. It was the perfect task for a man with few gifts for self-amusement. Sitting in his favorite green leather armchair in an apartment high above Park Avenue in New York, he wrote a history of his side of the family—the Zinssers and the Scharmanns—going back to 19th century Germany. Then he wrote a history of the family shellac business on West 59th Street, William Zinsser & Co., that his grandfather founded in 1849. He wrote with a pencil on a yellow legal pad, never pausing—then or ever again—to rewrite. He had no patience with any enterprise that obliged him to reexamine or slow down. On the golf course, walking toward his ball, he would assess the situation, pick a club out of the bag, and swing at the ball as he approached it, hardly breaking stride.”
It’s all about telling little stories that, together, provide a window into a life. The writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Next time, we’ll go more into why your memoir might actually benefit from your “amateur” writing.