MEMOIRS: Why Every Writer Should Write One!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

     A recent blog by one of my critique partners, Gretchen Griffith, prompted me to finish this blog, something I started writing a few weeks ago. In her blog, Gretchen talks about old cards found while cleaning out her great-grandfather’s house. Check it out here

     Gretchen's blog made me wonder what, if anything, will our great-grandchildren discover about our lives? In this tear-them-down, throw-away world will there even be a house to go through? Or worse yet, will those discs were putting all our photos on even be viewable on the technology of the day? Surely the technology we used to save them all will be a laughable joke, obsolete in our great-grandchildren’s lives.

     This is why I think it’s important for ALL writers to hunker down and write a memoir. Capture all those family stories that you've been told; interview those great aunts, grandparents and great-grandparents, if you’re fortunate enough to still have them in your life. Sit down with that one family member who holds all the stories in their head. You know--the one you always turn to when trying to figure out who belongs to whom.

     My mother was that person in our family. But, I didn't realize it until she was gone. Suddenly, my go-to person for family lore and information was no longer with me. Gone were the stories and family connections of near and distant relations.

     "Why do you have to write it?" you ask. Because if you’re a writer, you have all the skills to get it done. In addition, your descendants will be fascinated with the idea that you were a writer. Trust me. They will be, even if that novel you've written never hits the Best Seller List, or even gets published. I guarantee that at least one of your descendants will want to know more, wish they knew more about who you were, what and why you wrote?

     Memoirs come in all shapes and sizes. They can be about one event in your life or a relative’s life or a total life history. They can be general or specific. They might be a collection of stories from different relatives. You’re the writer. You get to decide.

     You don’t have to stop your other writing to write a memoir. Just start collecting, capturing if you will, some thoughts and ideas

  1. Print out your thoughts and file in a folder, a real hands-on manila folder that fits in a file cabinet someone can open later.
  2. Each holiday, write down what happened, the funny stuff and even the not so funny things.
  3. Ask questions and begin to collect the gems you’re told. 
  4. Record your personal memories of school, entertainment, daily lives back when you were a child. 
  5. When a memory surfaces, jot a few notes, names and places,  and file it.
  6.  Remember to include feelings, especially with your own  memories.
  7.  Capture stories of life-altering events such as War and  depression and death and disease. 
  8.  Show the courage exhibited by those who lived it. 
  9.  Get a digital recorder and sit down with your elderly    relatives before it’s too late. Once they’re gone, the stories are  lost forever. 
     You think you’ll remember the specifics of events and you might, but details fade with time. Jot them down now so you have them later when you’re ready to put something together.

     I had the pleasure of writing two memoirs of Army Reserve nurses who served in the Persian Gulf War. For both of these gals, the experience was life-altering, but I can guarantee you they would not be able to remember the day-to-day struggle they experienced if it hadn't been captured in their books.

     I believe a memoir should be true and honest capturing the ups and downs of life. You don’t want to upset family members by dwelling on he-said she-said things, but it will be important for those who come after to know that you persevered and grew and survived the challenges of life.

     As much as technology and daily life will change in the future, one thing will not change; people will continue to have joys and sorrows, life-altering experiences and challenges to over-come. And knowing that relations in the past, great-grandparents or great aunts and uncles, struggled and overcame despite enormous odds, will inspire future generations to never give up.

     So capture those memoirs that only you can write. You’re a writer. Do it for your family. Write the memoir only you can write!

PS: No, I haven't written my own yet, but I've been collecting stories and memories to pull out of a file when I'm ready. 

     What stories do you have to tell? 


     Two memoirs written by Sandra Warren for others are: When Duty Called: Even Grandma Had To Go and Hidden Casualties: Battles On The Home Front. 

     Check out all Sandra Warren's books at  


Carol Baldwin said...

You're so right, Sandra. I treasure the letters and autobiography of my father yet feel as if my life's journey is unimportant compared to his. I am keeping journals for all my grandchildren though. Maybe I should add tidbits about my life to those volumes. You got me thinking. Thanks!!

Linda A. said...

I smiled when I read your thoughts on how our new tech storage devices may not even work when future generations find them. Photos that are unable to be opened would be tragic, even worse than finding "browned" or faded ones.
Still gathering information mostly at this stage. I agree
I love people's stories. I am tackling a memoir of my own. that writing my memoir is worthwhile, even if I never get it published. I will certainly try to though.

Sandra Warren said...


Yes, definitely add tidbits about your life to those journals. Your grandchildren will thank you later.

I'm glad I got you thinking!

Keep writing!

Sandra Warren said...


Yes, as technology advances, accessing old 2015 information including photos will be harder and harder to do. I think about this quite a bit and haven't come up with a solution except to put them in a book, well, some of them at least.

Keep gathering that information. Thanks for your comment!

Gretchen Griffith said...

Thanks for the shout out, Sandra. A man in the project I'm finishing now was able to recount every detail about his fishing history for the past thirty years because of his fishing journal. He recorded places, weather, fish caught, and most interesting facts about the day. What a simple yet valuable treasure to pass along to his children.

Sandra Warren said...


That just goes to prove if a fly-fisherman can do it, a writer ought to be able to also.

Thanks for your comment!

sheri levy said...

Great idea, Sandra. I wrote a memoir about rescuing a very disturbed dog and about a difficult time with my family. Each was therapeutic for me. I'd love to have family memories to write about. I may ask my grands to write about one memory each year and maybe put it together for them.

Sandra Warren said...

What a great idea...having your grands write one memory every year. You've given me a great idea. I'll have to encourage mine to do that also.

Thanks for the great idea!

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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