Next weekend I’m facilitating a memoir-writing workshop focusing on writing for transformation. I’ll be sharing information based upon my forthcoming book, Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life.
I’m the author of two full-length memoirs and many short personal essays. People often ask me why people write memoirs. What I usually tell them is that there are a multitude of reasons, but typically, it stems from a burning need to do so.
The memoirists whom I interviewed for my research claimed they had a story to tell and felt they were the only ones who could tell it. Others might have secrets to share, or maybe they want to study or understand certain situations. Additional reasons to write a memoir include preserving a family’s legacy, learning more about one’s ancestors, a search for personalidentity, gaining insight into the past, or healing from a traumatic experience. Writer André Aciman believes that people write memoirs because they want a second chance to create another version of their lives.
When you write a memoir, you are writing your version of what you think happened from your own perspective. Someone else might have another version, and years and years later your perception of an incident might eventually change.
Once when speaking with writer Maxine Hong Kingston regarding her two published memoirs, she told me that her inspiration stemmed from her reflection about what had happened historically to her family as immigrants, and about the ghosts from her Chinese past—particularly regarding her aunt’s suicide after she’d been ostracized from the community for having an illegitimate child. The fact that her aunt was born into, and then forgotten by, her family grated on Kingston’s psyche for many years. And although Kingston’s mother wanted her daughter to share her stories with the world, she was told to hold on to the secret about her aunt’s suicide. Kingston wrote The Woman Warrior as a way to explore these conflicting messages.