Writing memoirs

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
In November, I had an interesting experience. For 3 consecutive Tuesdays, I conducted a 3-part seminar on the basics of writing fiction at our Jewish Community Center library. The seminar was scheduled for the middle of the day, so not surprisingly, only retired people attended. I had 2 attendees on the first 2 days (different on both days) and one woman on the last day. And everyone told me: “I liked it very much, but if it was a seminar on writing memoirs, I’d be much more interested. Schedule such a seminar and let us know. We’ll come.”

It seems, everyone wants to write their memoirs these days. Everyone but me. For sure, I can do a seminar on writing memoirs. Writing is writing, and story is story, whether fictional or real. In fact, the librarian had persuaded me into scheduling such a seminar for next spring. But why was I never tempted to write my own memoirs?

Apart from a couple of odd autobiographical essays, published in small magazines, I have never wanted to write about myself. I just don’t consider myself interesting. I’m ordinary. My fictional heroes, on the other hand, are fascinating, and their lives are full of adventures.

But that begs the question: could an ordinary person come up with extraordinary characters, characters people would root for? Or do I kid myself, and my characters are as hum-drum as I am? Or maybe the opposite is true: I’m not ordinary at all? I’m a writer, and what ordinary person would chose such an occupation? It doesn’t pay. It forces me, more often than not, to reside in places other my life and commune with people who are all figments of my imagination. It also makes me fret constantly about story structure, plot holes, dialogs, villains, etc., while my neighbors concern themselves with their home renovation projects and their children.

What do you think? Can an ordinary person be a writer? Or does it take a certain twist of the mind to become one? And if the latter is true, maybe we all should write our memoirs? Maybe they would be interesting after all? Are you considering writing your own memoirs?

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22 Responses to Writing memoirs

  1. I never want to write about myself either.
    I’m ordinary and never experienced much angst in life, and yet I have four published books. I think it just takes a little experience and a lot of imagination.

  2. cheriereich says:

    I hope ordinary people can be writers. Well, I may not be ordinary, but I sure do live an unexceptional existence. Why else would I spend more time in fictional worlds than real ones? No one wants to read how I went to work, worked, came home, and watched TV. I love my boring life, but I can’t see ever making a memoir out of it. I’ll stick with writing fiction. 🙂

  3. You mentioned that retired people attended your seminar on writing and wondered about the interest in memoirs and if we all might consider our own memoir worthwhile. Assuming I am probably in that same retirement group age I can see something else here. People are interested in doing life review when they reach a certain age and they want to leave a record of their life even if not many people read it. It is to give voice to their life experience and say, “I was here.”

  4. Juneta says:

    LOL, I don’t think my memoirs would be all that interest. I would rather write about adventure, other worlds, love and the human condition through my characters. Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  5. spunkonastick says:

    I’m a little off kilter, but I think you can still be normal.

    It might be a stretch to put together that workshop, but if they want you to come in and give it, I’d say go for it.

  6. I’m pretty sure I’m not interesting enough for my own memoir. Perhaps little snippets of my life are interesting enough, and so maybe in essay form, this could work for me. 🙂 http://www.raimeygallant.com

  7. My memoir would not be that interesting either. And I think ordinary people can write because we can still have a good imagination, love of writing, and develop the tools for writing a good story.

  8. cleemckenzie says:

    I hope ordinary people can be writers. I consider myself quite ordinary and I love writing. It gives me a chance to create extraordinary people that I’d love to be in real life.

  9. patgarcia says:

    I have to admit that I am considering writing my memoir. I have things that I want to share about myself that may encourage someone else. I just don’t know when I will write it.
    Wishing you all the best and a successful crossover into 2018.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  10. Chrys Fey says:

    I do have ideas to write a memoir type of book. A lot of people want to document theirs, and for many, a memoir is the only story that have to share. That’s why many people, especially those who are retired want to learn how to write them.

  11. I’ve had friends tell me I should write memoirs because I’ve got interesting stories to tell, but telling them to friends I trust and publishing them for anyone to read are two very different things, and I tend to be pretty private about the things that matter. Having said that, a lot of people have a yearning to tell their life stories, whether it’s because they seek understanding from others or because they have stories they think others would enjoy. Not having an “interesting” life, so to speak, certainly doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer. That’s what our imaginations are for.

  12. I’m with you, Olga: I’ve never considered writing my memoirs, though I have written several snippets for my blog. Maybe it’s because we have such vivid imaginations that our own lives seem boring by comparison.

  13. Lee says:

    I have absolutely no interest in writing my memoirs. I do think that all people are extraordinary in their own way, and each of us have a unique story to tell. Mine happen to be the dark, mystery type.

  14. Donna Hole says:

    Well, Beatrice is an exciting, unusual character. So, the answer is YES.

    I don’t want to write my memoirs either. You would think with so many people posting every minute of their lives on Face Book there would be less inclination to write a memoir. Perhaps though, FB is just practice writing for these people.

  15. Erika Beebe says:

    yikes! I am completely on your side Olga. Now what I wouldn’t mine, is creating a book of fiction about my life and making it exactly the way I wanted it to be. 🙂 And yes, ordinary people can write the extraordinary. I think writing takes a certain time of thinking where we paint our words into people pieces just like artists paint their famous paintings. Though some artists I’ve studied have lived different and wild sort of lives, I do not believe it is necessary. 🙂

  16. When I was younger, I wrote bad poetry and a personal essay or two, but now the closest I come to writing about myself are blog posts. And hopefully those aren’t too boring. 🙂

  17. Interesting question. I hope ordinary people can be writers, cause I’m pretty ordinary. I’ve always thought writing a memoir would be extraordinary difficult. You have to make what seem like ordinary things to you seem interesting and tie it all together with a theme. Seems like a hard thing to pull off. I much prefer sticking to the imaginary world.

  18. emaginette says:

    I think anyone can be a writer. But not everyone has a natural talent for putting words they’re thinking down on paper. I didn’t know this until my sister told me it was my super power. So that would be the first hurdle they’d have to conquer to get the job done.

  19. I think the difference may lie in the intent. For many people interested in writing their memoirs, their goal is to leave something meaningful behind for their family, not to publish a commercial good for profit. So I wouldn’t worry about whether or not writing memoirs is something you’re interested in or not.

  20. mlouisebarbourfundyblue says:

    Hi, Olga! What an interesting post! I am writing a memoir, hopefully for publication, to capture a transitional time in Canadian history for the Indigenous and other people who lived in the James Bay Lowlands at the beginning of the 1960s. It’s a way of life that has largely disappeared, and my family had an opportunity to experience it first hand. At the very least, it will preserve family memories and stories for our family.

    My second and third grade writers would always say they had nothing interesting to write about themselves. I would answer that everyone is special and unique. Everyone has a story worth telling. There never was another you and there never will be. I really believe that there are no boring people and that everyone has a story. You just have to dig a little, and out that uniqueness comes. I am endlessly fascinated with people’s stories, and I hear interesting ones every day. I’ll bet that you are fascinating and anything but ordinary! That said, everyone finds his or her niche and memoir as a writing genre is not for everyone.

    Happy Holidays and Happy Writing!

  21. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    Interesting, Olga. I am a Christian writer in the UK. I belong to the (British) Association of Christian Writers and, last spring, we held a writing day about writing memoir, with Sheridan Voysey as speaker, who was enthusiastically heard.

  22. Lidy says:

    I agree with you on both counts. Thought they’re fictional I think my character’s lead more exciting lives than I do so writing their story,their memoir so to speak, is more interesting than writing my own. On the other hand, the fact that I think them up and write about them must make me an extraordinary person. Oh well.

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