My grandpa is currently writing his memoir and he tells me that many seniors in our community are also writing theirs. My grandpa tells me about the difficulties and confusions he encounters when writing his memoir, and asks me for some advices. I am currently in UCI’s writing class and learn argumentative writings, and I also learned personal narrative writing before. With my several years of writing experience and one year’s writing training in college, I conclude some writing principle in personal narrative writing.
However, through my discussions and conversations with my grandpa and observations of some other seniors in our community who are also writing memoirs, I find some common mistakes they make that don’t follow these principles. I’m very pleased to give some suggestions to the seniors in our community on improving their memoir writing. But besides telling some specific rules about writing, I also want to discuss that why do we share our stories of our lives. We have to know that what memoir writing can bring us, rather than blindly start writing.Order now
Memoirs can benefit us because by writing the history of ourselves in the memoirs, both writers and readers can learn lessons from the mistakes the writers made, and in a larger scale, the mistakes of the whole society. We can learn lessons from history, and avoid making the same mistakes. An important principle of writing memoir is to be honest. Being honest means that you need to tell the truth about your own real story and feelings. Making up a fake story, or denying something that really happened are not acceptable in memoir writing. Honesty help you present readers a real scenario of things happened in the old days.
For example, my grandpa has been through so many historical events in Chinese history, and an important one is the devastating Cultural Revolution. During the period of the Cultural Revolution, almost all the people in China went crazy and totally believed in the principles that Chairman Mao Zedong said, which were mostly wrong. People began to ruin valuable historical relics, participated in public humiliation and seized some people’s property. And my grandpa also was part of these people. This catastrophe causes heaviest losses in Chinese history.
Some people try to justify their behaviors, or deny the fact that their behaviors cause lots of pain to other people in their memoir. They are not honest about their faults and lie about what happened in the past. This is not the right way to write a memoir because these people won’t be trusted by the readers. In “Rules for the Much Maligned Form” written by Katie Roiphe, she says, “If the reader senses the writer is lying even to himself, or using the essay as a piece of propaganda, a forwarding of his own personal mythology in too clumsy or transparent a way, she will react against it. By saying this, Roiphe points out the bad influence of not being honest in writing your own stories.
If you are not honest about what happened to you, you are not trustworthy and your stories’ authenticity will also be questioned. In contrast, being honest in memoir writing leads to a different result. Readers can trust you if you are honest, and readers can actually learn the lessons if they see that you honestly point out your mistakes and their effects. My grandpa honestly admits his own faults in the Cultural Revolution, and reflects the huge bad influence of mistakes made by society in the Cultural Revolution.
He successfully warns both himself and the younger generations not to make these mistakes again. Being honest can help writers earn the trustworthiness from the readers, and more importantly, being honest can help both ourselves and readers to face the truth, and learn the lessons from the past. However, although being honest is important, it’s also very difficult for writers. Firstly, people’s memories are not what really happened.
People In “But Enough About Me,” written by Daniel Mendelsohn, he says, “We always manage to turn our memories into good stories-even if those stories aren’t quite true. People unconsciously change their memories to the stories that they want to remember, and forget the pains and the bad parts about the stories. They don’t even realize that they are telling lies. And it’s really hard for people to clearly remember things that happened a long time ago. But I believe that when people are writing memoirs, their friends are still alive and they can discuss with their friends and relatives. And people also have the diaries, which record their stories, and photos, which can’t be fake, to help themselves write true stories. Another principle is to turn a critical eye on yourself in memoir writing.
All people have some mistakes that they made in their lives or something that they regret because no one is perfect. Criticizing yourself means that you need to bravely face some mistakes that you made in the past, and rather than blaming things to other people, you need to point out your faults. But people don’t always wants to criticize themselves. Mendelsohn says, “People have been complaining about the shallowness, the opportunism, the lying, the betrayals, the narcissism. ” People tend to write stories about being deceived and betrayed by other people, and stories about the unfair society.
But you need to attack yourself and point out that your own mistakes. Don’t take different standards when treating others and yourself, and don’t try to protect yourself from faults. Criticizing yourself not only help you to rethink profoundly about your life and reflect over yourself, but also help readers think profoundly about the mistakes. A memoir with both happiness and sorrow, satisfaction and regret, and things that they were right and wrong can reflect the real history and can really move the readers. Through self-criticizing, writers can help both readers and themselves to learn the lessons.