This Ink with Pen and Brush is based on a photograph sent to me in December. I like the dark and light winter scene contrasts as well as it featuring an old waterwheel mill. I think of winter as a time between, ideal for contemplation of our past and what might lie ahead. For these reasons, and more, it seemed a good piece to feature with this new year Thought—Memoir.
I struggled with how to title this week’s ‘Thought’—Memoir. First, I must explain how the topic came about. From an early age our sons then grandchildren began asking questions about my life growing up. They’d heard a few things that aroused their curiosity: My young mother died at my birth, I grew up living with five separate families and then there’s the fact that I’m old! As years passed, I’ve tried to answer their questions. They suggested, “Dad, why don’t you write down your story for us and for the grandchildren?” I listened, even invested thought and prayer around the idea of writing my story. What would one call such a thing?
(Trust me! I have a purpose in sharing all this with you. I’ll share it at the end.)
I did a little research and discovered two possibilities: ‘autobiography’ and ‘memoir’. Autobiography is a chronological story of events of one’s life. I understand that. What’s different about a ‘memoir’? Here’s what I learned from writing consultant Adair Lara.
“The most basic principle of writing a memoir is that the writer must tell a story. The driving force behind excellent memoir is the desire to share a personal story of growth, discovery or change. This story must be told in a way that is unique, interesting and relatable. A well-written memoir appeals to the reader through the empathy of shared experience.
“The easiest way to determine the arc of a memoir is writing one sentence that describes the start and end of the story… This will create a bare-bones plot and will provide guidance for the process of incorporating all of the smaller details of the story.
“When it comes to the smaller details, make a list of the things that were done to achieve this goal. Describe how they worked or how they didn’t work. Express what was felt with each success or failure in the process. Be candid and honest. Think about how these feelings could be shared with a reader, and detail the lesson or insight that needs to be shared. Those things make a memoir worth reading.”
O.K., that helped me see that I’m about to write a ‘memoir’. Next question: who is my audience? Primarily, my sons, grandchildren, family members and friends who may be interested. Now, with a pretty good idea of what a ‘memoir’ is, and having defined my target audience, where do I begin?
What are my major resources for investigation that will help outline and eventually write the ‘memoir’? Four resources come to mind: memories, photographs, and journals I’ve kept–spasmodically since my first year of college in1957–plus the Internet. I have a near foot high stack of ‘journals’ since that first one in college. Everything up through high school is from memories and camera photos before cell phones. Here are a few journal entries:
- “Thursday, August 13, 2009 [Today I am 71 years and 4 months old/young!]
- “Tuesday, October 16, 2012 [I have been working on this a week. I am 74 now.]
- “Friday, November 30, 2012 [I have been away from working on this for a time.]
- “December 07, 2012 Back again.
- “December 11, 2012 Back.
- “Monday, November 18, 2019 Back [Today I am 81 years and 7 months old/young. I have a goal of serious work on this during 2020]”
You may have noticed a ten-year span between my start in 2009 and December 2019!
To assist in this project I considered using Microsoft Word, Evernote and Scrivener (a program created to help writers of all kinds). Scrivener became my choice. December was spent learning Scrivener, scanning and copying what I have into the program. Now, for 2020, it’s a matter of personal discipline!
Why did I share all of this with you?
I want to encourage you to start (or continue) keeping a journal in 2020! It will prove invaluable to you personally and to your family and friends as a legacy of the way God has worked in and through your life with its ups and downs toward maturity.
“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV