Ten reasons anyone should write a memoir

by Jerry Waxler

To learn more about the cultural passion for memoirs, and reasons you should write your own, read my book Memoir Revolution: A Social Shift that Uses Your Story to Heal, Connect, and Inspire, available on Amazon. Click here for the eBook or paperback.

Memories pile up year after year like boxes of unsorted photos. Until I was 50, I had no idea of what to do with all these memories so I tried to ignore them, hoping they would somehow make sense or go away. Finally I couldn’t take it any more, and started sorting out who I had been, organizing the past along lines of time and story. This effort has turned out to be a vital activity with many benefits that I want to share with the world.

  1. Memories are shifty and hard to follow. If you know who you are only through your memories, your sense of self will be as tangled as an old storage closet. By creating a written narrative, your past takes shape, offering a clearer vision of who you are today.
  2. Story telling is a lovely life-skill. Once you get the knack of telling stories about yourself, you’ll learn to organize and communicate all your thoughts more clearly.
  3. By writing about your life, you form a connection with those who read your words. Whether they are relatives, old friends, or strangers, by connecting with them you reduce isolation and increase the size and intimacy of your social network.
  4. Writing about your life lets you share ideas and lessons. Your knowledge and wisdom can help others grow along with you.
  5. If you’re curious about your grandparents, there’s a good chance your grandkids will be curious about you. I don’t have kids, so when I think of leaving my legacy, I imagine contributing to my extended family and the entire culture. All culture accumulates from the creative act of individuals sharing their unique perspective.
  6. Writing about your life helps dissolve the hard knots of loss, betrayal, regret, and guilt that keep you stuck in the past despite your best efforts to forget.
  7. By forming a writing habit, you change from someone who never writes to someone who does. You will be able to leverage this habit into all kinds of writing, whether for your career, your hobby, or your history.
  8. Writing is a challenging mental activity, and research shows that challenging yourself mentally improves your mental agility and stamina. It even develops brain cells.
  9. You can extend the knack of storytelling into the future. An optimistic story about the future is far more compelling than a meandering conglomeration of hopes and fears. Telling the story of tomorrow provides you with a powerful tool to keep you moving today.
  10. In an airport, sports stadium, or mall surrounded by tens of thousands of nameless people, you might think that you are just one of a crowd. So it’s natural to wonder “why should anyone read about my life?” And that’s the best reason to write it. As you tease out the details of your actual path, and look for what makes your journey worth reading, you will incidentally also reveal what makes it worth living.

More memoir writing resources

To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

To learn about my 200 page workbook about overcoming psychological blocks to writing, click here.

15 thoughts on “Ten reasons anyone should write a memoir

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  5. “As you tease out the details of your actual path, and look for what makes your journey worth reading, you will incidentally also reveal what makes it worth living.”

    Words to write by. Thank you.

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  9. “If you’re curious about your grandparents, there’s a good chance your grandkids will be curious about you. ”

    YES! This is marvelous, Jerry I can’t wait to share it on my Practical Archivist FB page.

  10. Thanks for the comment, Sally, and thanks for spreading the word. I’ll look forward to checking out your Facebook page.

    Best wishes

  11. Wow, Kathleen. Thanks so much for this compliment. I see from your website that you have a deep interest in sharing the life story of your son, as well as helping other parents who struggle with this grief. I’m glad you find my site useful, and I’m sure your visitors will find value in your site. In this way, while we work on crafting our own stories, we are acting as a volunteer resource, passing our lessons and resources along to others as fast as we learn them.

    Best wishes,

  12. Hi Logan,

    Thanks for your comment. You are asking a question that would require a whole article to answer. The short answer is that the two words are often used interchangeably. But when you search for the nuances that distinguish them, there are a few. The most important thing that differentiates a memoir is that it is driven by good story-power. So to craft your memoir, you need to develop a sense of story arc, character development, and suspense all while staying true to the facts. An autobiography is less driven by the power of the story, and often can be thought of as a historical sequence of anecdotes and information about a person’s life. I hope this helps.

    And actually I am working on an article to answer the question in more detail. I hope you will stay tuned to this blog so when I finally post it, you can read the whole thing.

    Best wishes,
    Jerry Waxler

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