We all have stories about our lives that are important to us. Some of these stories involve people we have met. Others involve experiences that have happened which are unique, unusual, or even downright scary. When woven together, these stories make up what we call life. When looked at individually, they are considered to be personal memoirs.
As long as there has been humanity on our planet, there have been memoirs offered. Some have been handed down through verbal stories. Others, such as those written by Julius Caesar, were written accounts of what happened to them. In basic terms, a personal memoir is a record of events that are shared by someone who has intimate knowledge of them based on their own observations and interactions.
What Is the Origin of a Memoir?
In the English language, the word “memoir” comes from 16th century France, with some Latin influence. In French, the word is mémoire, while in Latin it is memoria. It literally means “memory.” And that’s what a memoir happens to be – a personal memory.
This is why memoirs are different from an autobiography. An autobiography is like a life journal. It details the events a life has experienced and why those events are important. An autobiography can include memoirs, but memoirs are never an autobiography on their own.
How To Write a Personal Memoir
The memories that we all have are important to us, but they can also be important stories to others. This is often why we tell these stories in regular conversation to one another. In a way, the personal memoir is a guarantee that a life will never be forgotten. Even if only told instead of written down, those are words that become lodged in the minds of everyone who heard them.
What makes this such a powerful story is that it is so personal. These are intimate details you share and it places the reader or listener into your shoes. They feel what you feel. Then they can relate those feelings to what is currently happening to them and have comfort in knowing that others have overcome similar challenges.
That means for a memoir, the details of the personal experience are vitally important. Anyone can be a good father. Yet the stay-at-home father being Mr. Mom has a different experience than the father who is a CEO and Chairman of a company that he founded. Both fathers can raise great kids, but how they go about doing it will be very different. Those differences are what will make the personal memoir be able to stand out.
Far too often, however, the focus is on the subject material being discussed instead of the details of what was learned along the way.
Great Memoirs Tell the Truth – Sort Of
Truth is in the eye of the beholder. We all can see the same event happen, but remember it in a different way. That’s why a memoir that is honest and genuine is a very powerful story. It may not be 100% accurate compared to the facts that might be documented by others, but that’s what makes the personal memoir such an attractive story.
It is truth, but seen through the eyes of the writer.
Because of this, the tone of writing used for the memoir is important. If you’re a sarcastic person, then your tone must be equally sarcastic because that’s the authentic you. If you’re optimistic, then let your writing be optimistic. What every writer must avoid, however, is the bitterness of disappointment.
Writing a memoir shouldn’t be about seeking revenge or pity. It should be about sharing your personal perspectives and why those observations are important. You’re showing people what has happened instead of telling them what they should think.
A Personal Memoir Is a Journey
You’ve experienced joy and sadness. You’ve experienced mountain summits and low valleys. You’ve had struggles, challenges, and successes. The goal of a personal memoir is to share that journey and to do so in an emotional way. Recall how you felt during the moments you’re writing about and then put those feelings into words. This will draw readers into your memories and never let them go.
By understanding what a personal memoir happens to be, you can begin to communicate your experiences to others. When that happens, your memories become mentors to help others face and overcome similar challenges. That’s the power of a memory.
And that’s the power of the written word.