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.