Back to School for Memoir Writers, As Well

READY, SET, WRITE! That’s how most people think writing memoir will go, whether it be in blog form, a series of essays, or a full-length book. There once was a time when I was terribly polite about this work and what it requires. At cocktail parties when someone asked me what I do, and just above my string of pearls I’d smile and reply, “I’m a writer,” and nearly to a person, he’d say he was going to write when he retired. Nodding, I’d wish him the best with it and slink off to find the canapés, wondering what was wrong with me that I was going to devote my whole life to writing, when clearly people who were smarter than I could put it off until they got around to it.

Now, I’m not so polite. Now, when someone tells me that he is going to become a writer when he gets around to it, I reply, “And what do you do?” And sometimes he says, “Oh, I’m a brain surgeon,” and that’s my favorite reply because then I can say, “When I retire I’m going to become a brain surgeon,” with just a hint of a sneer above those pearls.

Writing is serious work and is not for the mere brain surgeons among us, but for those who resolve that 2011 is the year you finally write some pieces of memoir. Or perhaps a whole book. And here it is, the best time of  the year to start: The new school year, that totemic time when we all get back to business. What better time to get to work? Need more inspiration than that? Here’s a two-word tip on how: Be hospitable.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Being hospitable in writing means many things, but going into this marathon of family observation let’s just choose one way to be hospitable to your memoir writing.

Let’s take notes. Literally.

Being hospitable means getting a stack of index cards and putting one in each pocket, in the back pocket of your jeans, and taking it out at the movies when you see someone make a great transition from one emotion to the next, making note of the spare gesture employed that conveyed the change. Write it down. Get a few notebooks, and write things down.

But here’s the rub: This does not require an expensive digital recorder, leather notebook, or Cartier pen. That’s shopping instead of writing. That’s showing off. That’s going into debt.

Get some index cards. Write down some stuff down, and resolve that the 2011-2012 school year is your time to write memoir. When you need help, check in with me. I’ve got some how-to right here. Pretend this is a new school year for you, as well, and get to work.


  1. Elissa says

    So sorry you have to keep telling us this! Like Pema Chodron says, “I keep saying the same thing, over and over. You just haven’t heard it yet.”

    Note to self – steal index cards from the 14 year old, stuff into pockets.

    Real note to self – write!

  2. says

    I took on writing a memoir when I was canned 2 1/2 years ago so the CEO’s hubby could have my job.

    I’ve always wanted to write a memoir and I believed at the start, since I was an MBA and “always loved to write,” it would be a fairly simple process. Not.

    At the onset of project, it was easy for me to build a framework and I committed to it. So much so that I filed bankruptcy and foreclosed on my home.

    However, I have an incredibly supportive partner and he has kept my animal companions and I fed. I have that luxury. But this writing project has turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Regression analysis and office politics pales in comparison. And every time I think I’m close to finishing, I’m further away!

    What has helped enormously, besides a supportive partner and determination, is reaching out for guidance. It recently occurred to me to do this, and it’s making a difference! Thank you, Marion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>