Why Should I Write a Memoir?

I get a lot of reasons from people about why they don’t want to write a memoir, but the one that I hear the most upsets me.

“I can’t write,” is what people tell me. And sadly, this is true for many of them. For whatever reason – poor schooling, difficult family life, disability, etc. – these people have not mastered the skills necessary to write their stories down. As an educator I see this all the time. I teach developmental (or what we used to call remedial) reading and writing. My students are from all walks of life. Don’t kid yourself that people who can’t read or write are all poor. Not true at all.

I am a teacher before I am anything. Perhaps this is why I love editing and consulting so much – I love bringing the necessary tools to people and teaching them how to use those tools.

“Why should I write a memoir when I am too afraid to write it down?” you ask.

Because your story deserves to be told. Because you deserve to take your place in history – if only for all of your descendants. Let me give you an example.

king geneThis is my great-grandfather, Eugene Joseph Hamilton. In his time, in his place, he was called King Gene by everyone in the Florida Everglades. He was a big man in those days. A reporter came down to the islands, met King Gene, and then wrote a story about King Gene and his family. He told King Gene’s story. Gene died poor and virtually unknown in his 80’s.

It is 2013. I found that story in a search through the Internet, and I posted it on Facebook and my website. Guess what? King Gene is here with us now; we are reading his story, we are looking at his photos, we are REMEMBERING this man and talking with each other about him.

King Gene’s story was told. The story was lost for a little while, but now it is making the rounds again. Because that is what stories do…they live on. In print, in digital format, in the minds of the people who read them and repeat them.

So, don’t let your poor grammar or spelling stop you from telling YOUR story. Here are some things you can do if you are afraid to write:

  • Write it anyway and send it to someone to edit and make suggestions
  • Speak it into a tape recorder and send it to someone to transcribe for you
  • Tell it to someone else and have THEM write it down for you

By the way, I do all of those things – EDIT, TRANSCRIBE, GHOSTWRITE.

Give me a call or drop me an email. Consultations are always free.



Published by: Karen Y. Hamilton

Walt Whitman says about his autobiography, Specimen Days “…At any rate I obey my happy hour’s command, which seems curiously imperative. May-be, if don’t do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” This is what I feel at this juncture of my life, the need to gather together memories of my ancestors as well as my own memories into some semblance of order. Because all of those fragments, all of the fragments that make up any life, become stories. I am the mother of three sons, who affectionately (I hope!) call me 'gypsy mom' because I tend to wander around a bit soaking in the universe's wonders. I am currently working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. I have published essays with Heritage Press, Florida Living, and the St. Pauls Review. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Florida Everglades pioneers and a memoir about grief and the bonds of friendship. I live in my hometown, Jupiter, Florida and work as a freelance writer and curriculum specialist.

Categories LifewritingTags, , , , , , , , 1 Comment

One thought on “Why Should I Write a Memoir?”

  1. I love memoir. Glad you found your great-grandfather’s story. I do think too much is lost. I’m trying to write down everything I find out in my family. I’ve learned things from my grandma in recent years I never knew about before and there are things my husband tells me about his grandparents that I want our child to know. If I don’t write them down, they will be gone as soon as they pass away. My husband is nearing 80 and my grandmother is in her 80’s. I know time is not guaranteed and neither have written down their stories, because they didn’t think it would matter to anyone. I believe it does.

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