Patti Miller is an Australian writer, who was born and grew up near Wellington, New South Wales, Australia. She holds a BA (Communications) and an MA (Writing) from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). She is the author of seven books and numerous articles and essays published in national newspapers and literary magazines. She has taught literature and writing at UTS, University of Western Sydney, Australian Writers’ Centre and other writers’ centres and is the founder and director of its Life Stories Workshop, which aims to develop and support memoir writing.
After teaching memoir writing for more than twenty-five years, I am certain that writing a memoir is for everyone, not just for the famous, or for those who have lived a long time. Memoir is not so much about recording a history of a life, but about exploring a life, finding the essential story and sharing it with others. I have written several memoirs myself, and each time I am struck by how rich and rewarding the genre is.
Top five reasons for writing #memoir
- Writing a memoir will help you make sense of your life and help you find meaning amongst the random nature of daily events. Most people are too busy with work and family to have time to think about their lives, to ask themselves where their lives are going. Later, people ask themselves whether this is the life they really wanted when they were young. Memoir is a way of re-discovering who you are and exploring what has made you – and even finding out what you want to do next.
- It will give you the pleasure of re-living joyful experiences. There is a unique delight in re-living events as you return to them in memory - and then try to find the words to express them. The moment you sat with your mother on the back step, the day you first went overseas, these are the details a life is made of. The concentration of actually writing, rather than just talking, creates a sense of richness so intense it feels as if the memories are more real than life.
- It will help you understand the difficult times in your life. To write well about painful or difficult events, you will need to understand your own and other people’s actions and feelings. This can be confronting, but the rewards are more than worth it. New insights can release you from the grip of old suffering and can give you both strength and freedom.
- It will give you the reward of sharing with other people, especially those who have experienced similar challenges or difficulties. There is a particular joy in the connection with others, which occurs when you openly share your story. Sharing your story helps encourage others and gives them inspiration and hope. You only have to look in the bookshops to realise that many readers are eager to read stories of courage and survival.
- It will give you the joy of creativity as you find the words to construct your life on the page. Many people write memoir for the sheer delight of words; the joy of the artistic spirit finding the best way to express itself. Even those who start out simply to tell their story often find they are caught up in the beauty of words and the excitement of re-creating their own lives in a way that will touch the hearts and minds of their readers.