Memoir motivations revisited.


Why to memoirists write?

There is something in the way in which we approach the subject of our lives, perhaps viewed sceptically and a tad fearfully, like a huge pile of dishes – needing a good scrub, perhaps, or newly washed and waiting to be stacked in the cupboards. I approached Trapped  cautiously, and I suspect all memoirists tiptoe, gradually getting closer, until we are able to plunge in and immerse ourselves in the subject for a while. Life as a cold shower, perhaps.

It is a coming to terms, a reappraisal which, after all the angles have been explored, allows us to draw away again, review matters more objectively, or at least, from a different angle. For, no matter how we go about it, writing memoir forces us, at the end of a long and often painful process, to see life differently. In fact, in drawing away, we cannot but have shifted our view, even if by a minute fraction.

So, one main reason for writing memoir, is to allow us to see things differently, in the end, and to acquire fresh awareness of the struggle and heartache of others, and of our parts in the struggles of others. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Ironic, really, that readers of other genres, standard fiction and standard factual books, sometimes say that memoirists are rather self-involved. Yes, but that is part of a process of release that allows us not to be. Ironic, that in apparently being self-obsessed – why else would we imagine that others would be interested in reading about our lives? – we acquire deeper empathy for others.

I got to forty, and thought, hey, I’ve arrived, and getting old seems to be the world’s best kept secret.  I became even more sedate and withdrawn, dignified, as a forty-year-old thinks she has to be.  But as I cranked up some steam into the following decade, I knew I was hiding, and that my personal silence was much less important than finally – finally – letting my family discover who I was, and  that I really, really love them.  My family have their own issues and challenges, and my husband and daughter could do with a few more clues about me.  I thought it might be helpful if I could maybe throw some love and understanding their way: come to terms, discard those grudges that go back years, empty out the pot of resentment and clear away the backlog of mistaken assumptions.

Writing helps with all these aspects of growing up.  The process of learning to write and having the courage to publish is in itself so rewarding, that even if I knew then, what I know now that a bit of discomfort is never a reason to shy away from home truths.




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