WHY WRITE YOUR LIFE STORY? An excerpt from The Memoir Writing Workbook By Norma Libman ©2000 Why do so many people, whether they are professional writers or not, think about writing down the stories of their lives? From the time of the ancient Greeks when Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living," to modern times when the author Gertrude Stein said, "No life that is not written about it truly lived," people have been trying to remember and make sense out of the experiences of their pasts. One of the best ways to examine your life, to see it in perspective, and to remember as much of your past as possible, is to write about it. Writing helps one focus and think about what you have done with your time on earth, what the people around you have done, what has happened in the world at large, and how all of this has worked together to impact your life. That's a lot to think about. In a recent interview Frank McCourt, the author of the fabulously successful memoir, Angela's Ashes, reflected on the nature of memoir writing and said, "Once you begin writing you'll never be bored again." That is really the truth. The more you write, the more you will remember and the more you will have to think about. The process of writing can serve many purposes, not the least of which is that you may be able to publish and make money from your story. But most people who want to set straight the details of their lives are not interested in publication. They are happy to make a record and gain an understanding of who they are and how they got to where they are today. How they got to be the person they are now. The possibilities for change and improvement in your life - as a result of this self-examination - are endless. Writing is a wonderful way to work through problems and begin to see things in new ways. Another happy result of this work is that you will learn more about your own family and your origins. You may find relatives you didn't know you had. You may come to understand why certain people behaved the way they did at some time in the past. You may form closer friendships with people who otherwise would have been forgotten memories. (Sometimes, though, people do not want you to be asking questions and we will address how to handle this situation - if it arises - later in the workbook.) In addition to the personal benefits of embarking on a project of this nature, there are enormous potential benefits for your family. This is a valuable legacy to leave for your children and grandchildren. Right now they may not be interested in your history - they're busy with a million other things! When they are interested, you may not be available to tell them the stories. How I wish I could have a few hours with my grandmother right now so she could fill in the blanks of those half-remembered tales from my childhood. This is something you can do for your grandchildren now, while you're able. They will thank you for it when they are ready to know the answers to the questions they don't yet know they have. This excerpt is from the introduction to The Memoir Writing Workbook, written by Norma Libman for use in her writing workshops. It provides the beginning writer with start-up writing exercises, and information gathering and organizational techniques. TOP OF PAGE
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