“Too often memories die with their owner, and too often time surprises us by running out.”
With this last installment of our summer-long series discussing William Zinsser’s essay, “How to Write a Memoir,” I want to focus just on that sentence, which may be the most pivotal thought in the essay. Life goes by quickly. One day you’re busy establishing your career, raising a family, enjoying your mid-life routine, and then you wake up and all of that is in the past. By then you’re busy with other things—grandchildren, hobbies, perhaps working—and you still have no solid blocks of time to sit down and write a memoir.
But the alternative to not finding the time to write a memoir is that you never write one, and all of those experiences you lived and emotions you felt never make their way out of your head to inspire and inform the generations that follow. You grow old never having taken the opportunity to review your life in a substantive, organized way that can give you insight into the lessons you’ve learned and the contributions you’ve made.
It does take a commitment—and, hardest of all, it takes getting started—to craft your story, something you can point to as your own perspective of the little chapters that combined to turn you into who you are today. Write your story before time runs out, before life writes your last chapter for you without having any input from the protagonist: you. Do it today.