Memoir: Writing the past imperfect

Is your past perfect? Of course not, and that just means you’ve had a life. That’s the stuff some really good memoirs are made of. Even if we don’t have big stories of past troubles, we are not perfect, and it’s important in memoir not to make ourselves seem perfect. Perfect is unreal, unrelatable, and, frankly, uninteresting. While documenting life in a different time or place, don’t be afraid of telling stories on yourself—anecdotes, foibles, mischief, bad habits. Give yourself personality and color. Also, times change, so what might be frowned upon today may have been normal behavior or belief back then and good to capture for historical and cultural record – be sure to note that historical perspective though.

Maybe you’ve had a rough time. Overcoming, coming to terms, lessons learned. Rather than be embarrassed or ashamed, know that this type of memoir can help others who are going through the same or related struggles or are wanting to better understand someone who is. They can inspire, encourage, or build empathy for others. They can offer advice that might help someone else move through their dark time, or at least let them know they are not alone. If you’re worried about what your family will think, maybe your journey is something they need to know to better understand you. Maybe your kids will feel they can confide in you about their own troubles because you’ve been through some bad times, too—you would understand.

If you’re in the middle of rough times, your story isn’t done, but try journaling. Writing can be a release for emotions, a way to think, to clear your head, to take notes to eventually write that memoir and maybe help others. A lot of poignantly beautiful poetry comes out of pain. Read someone else’s story of going through a similar bad time and hopefully be encouraged. Troubles are our challenges, our learning experiences, our humanity. A good memoir shows our humanity.



About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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