Lyn Alderson

Copywriter, Journalist, Blogger

Writing a memoir: what are the benefits?


woman-41201_1280Should you write a memoir, and what are the benefits of such a project?

I’ve been thinking this through while ghost writing two very different memoirs for ladies who both have fascinating stories.

These women are inspirational characters who have given a lot to other people, and they both have great insights: the world needs to hear what they have to say.

So think about whether you have a great story that will benefit others when they read it. You don’t need to be famous or wealthy, although you might be. But you do need an eventful life story, one that involves overcoming challenges, or triumphing over adversity.

The best and the worst memoirs

In the best memoirs I’ve read, people have reflected on- and owned up to- their mistakes as human beings and found a positive way forward despite what life has thrown at them. The worst memoirs are the ones that people write to settle old scores, where they insist on blaming everyone else for everything that’s gone wrong.

True life stories are more entertaining than fiction, as long as they are courageously and honestly narrated. And memoirs can have many different angles. They can be about business or career achievements, traveling or hobbies, or family and personal relationships- or a mixture of many varied elements.

Many memoirs are about illness, or coping with the illness of significant others in your life. Memoirs don’t always involve high drama, because sometimes it’s not external factors that have the most impact on us, but what happens on the inside as we go through life.

The healing power of memoir

book-841171_1280So consider writing a memoir if you have something to say to inspire or encourage others, or if you want to record your experiences for future generations.

Telling your story often has a healing effect: we feel purged of negative emotions as we write them down. So it can be positively therapeutic to write a memoir. Psychologists say that memories of traumatic events are reorganised internally as we speak about them, and filed away more neatly in long term memory, so they become less intrusive and less disturbing in the here and now.

And it’s not just about coming to terms with the past. Don’t forget the joy you can experience again as you relive mountain top experiences of your life! At the very least, writing a memoir will increase your self- awareness and that’s a positive gain.

It also gives you something unique to pass on to family members, a treasured possession that helps them understand you and their family history.

The difficult part in memoir-writing is coaxing the story out, and deciding which bits are relevant to your narrative. Planning the central themes in advance is paramount. Work out what is important to you- it’s your story after all.

Help with memoir writing

You may have something important to say but lack the spare time or skills needed for a book project. In this case, don’t be deterred. You could employ a ghost writer to help you do justice to the story. They could interview you face-to-face or on Skype, and write the narrative on your behalf- I’ve used this process with clients and it works well. There are lots of people out there who can assist you with writing and publishing a book.

Remember that the process of story-telling is valuable for you, whether you write every word yourself or engage a professional to help you. Your book will be an accomplishment and treasured by those who love you. And you never know, it might be a best-seller too!

7 thoughts on “Writing a memoir: what are the benefits?

  1. Nice article. I’m currently blogging my memoir, it’s challenging but healing as well.

  2. Reblogged this on Memoir Notes.

  3. I found this article very interesting, particularly the psychologists’ comments under “Healing Power”. My memoir (I Belong to No One) was published about two years ago, and I am often asked if writing it was cathartic, to which I always answer ‘no’ as I was narrating events that I have frequently spoken about (and had therefore “reorganised”?).

    Since publication however, I have discovered that the traumatic events ARE no longer as intrusive as they used to be. I am not sure whether that is as a consequence of having discharged them onto paper; or whether the act of writing a memoir – which took many years – caused them to be so top of mind that they were more present on a regular basis.

    Whatever the cause, there is certainly a sense that I have “closed the book” (pardon the pun) on that part of my life.

    • I was interested to read your comment Gwendoline, I am now writing my own memoir and hope that I will accomplish it with a sense of closure, as you describe. Love your blog- had a quick visit and plan to read more. Thanks for connecting.

Leave a Reply to Lynz Real Cooking Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s