As a memoir coach I read a lot of memoirs. And a lot of people ask me when is the time to write a memoir? I think there are a few elements to consider before taking on the task of putting memories to paper.
Many of you are familiar with Cheryl Strayed the author of Wild, which was later released into a movie.
Cheryl took her hike in the summer of 1995, and her book just released in 2012. When asked in an interview why she had waited so long to write the book, Cheryl said:
“For a number of reasons. It took me years of apprenticing myself to the craft before I could write a book…. I don’t write about something unless I feel a stirring inside of me to do so and it wasn’t until 2008 that I felt that in relation to my experience on the PCT. I think the years between my hike and writing about it made for a better book. I gained perspective that I wouldn’t have had if I’d written about it immediately.”
I love two things about what she said:
1) “Years of apprenticing myself to the craft.”
2) “I gained perspective.”
I believe these two elements are what made this such an excellent memoir. Think about this when considering whether it’s the right time for your memoir.
→ In order to tell your story effectively so that it has the maximum impact, you’ll probably need to spend years apprenticing yourself to the craft; that is, actively studying, learning and improving as a writer.
→ And in order for your story to resonate with deeper truth, you should have enough distance from it that you’ve gained perspective. When you’re still too close to it, you won’t be able to write it well.