Writing a memoir helps you find your voice, tell your story, and reach out to others. You start thinking about your memories, moments that make you feel young again, wondering: what is the legacy I’m leaving behind? But how to get started?
I speak to many people who want to write their memoir, but they don’t know how to get started. Their life is crazily busy with making a living, children, grandchildren, keeping fit, volunteering and who knows what else, and they can’t imagine finding time each day to sit down to write their memoir.
Memoir writing groups are springing up around the country to help people kickstart their writing habit. Last year, I started two memoir groups in Mosman, Sydney and they are truly inspiring. I’ve seen the confidence of the participants increase and the quality of their writing excites and amazes me. It inspires me so much that I race home and write for several hours every evening after we meet.
If you are thinking of joining a memoir writing group, I encourage you to do so as it can be life-changing. Here are the insights of a few members of my writing groups that I hope will inspire you to join a group in your local area.
Rosemary Christmas, a Mosman artist, joined my memoir writing group to see if she could get some motivation to write her family history. She was searching for professional encouragement.
‘The process of sharing with others who are also interested has been a real privilege and bonus,’ Rosemary says. ‘I appreciate the tips on the process of writing. Doing the exercises together seems to kickstart me into wanting to do more. It’s amazing how things come to mind when prompted by Gabriella. I appreciate the openness in reading and recalling my life events with others in the group and especially hearing from them about theirs—almost a therapy group sometimes! Except for the preparation homework each month, I haven’t yet got into a regular writing habit, but I can feel this a possibility in time. Being able to read my writing with others gives me confidence and helps clarify and improve my writing. The observations from others are valuable and often enlightening, especially Gabriella’s comments. I feel privileged to listen to others’ writings about their life and experiences and always learn something about presentation in our group critique.’
May Chang, who is a marketing consultant in Sydney, believes that everyone has a story in them. She joined our memoir writing group so that she could get inspired to kickstart her memoir. She loves participating in the group, providing constructive feedback to others’ stories and risking reading her own story to help her improve her own writing. She finds that the group is inspiring her to start writing her memoir and it is also helping her to get into a regular writing habit. She values the opportunity to provide feedback on other group members’ stories.
‘Hearing from the others in the group broadens my scope of thinking,’ she says. ‘Participating in the group boosts my confidence as I’m able to voice my doubts and fears but I’m also encouraged that each person’s story is unique. We lift each other with the guidance of Gabriella.’ May says the fluidity of her writing has improved since joining the group and her fear of writing has reduced. She values being with like-minded people who have become her writing community. ‘I most like the diverse range of people in the group in terms of age, background, style of writing and insights,’ she says. ‘We are grateful to have Gabriella volunteering her time and expertise.’
Lesley Brydon, who has spent her high-profile career in advertising and health policy advocacy writing media releases, policies and submissions, says the memoir writing group gives her a whole new creative framework.
‘The meetings pose deadlines that I feel compelled to meet,’ she says. ‘Meeting with seasoned writers expands my mind and inspires me. And having a group leader motivates me to action.‘
Mark Simkins, an advertising industry stalwart, joined our memoir writing group to get started on his memoir. Through the group he’s discovered ways of finding structure for his story. He likes the instant feedback he receives on his stories. He finds the group inspiring and he is now writing every day. ‘Hearing others’ stories inspires me and gets my thoughts flowing,’ he says. ‘It has given me more confidence in my writing. It has taught me that everyone has a story even if the audience is just your family. I find my memoir writing group inspiring and motivating.’
Glenda Gartrell is a communication professional and historian. Over the years, she has researched, documented and recorded memoirs for several family members.
‘I produced factually accurate records which included very little oral history,’ she says. ‘I’m now acquiring skills to rectify that. Having a group leader provides professionally inspired writing exercises and the chance to hear how others approach the topic; it also provides an important timeframe which helps keep me focused.’
Natural Resource Economist, Jon Cook, who has already written his life story says,
‘Despite only one visit, I can see that the memoir writing group’s approach is valuable. I think it is useful socially, bringing together a diverse group of people—age, gender, experience—thus generating ideas relating to varying experiences and approaches to describing them. It also provides positive feedback to individual group members, increasing their confidence in their ability to develop and expresstheir ideas.’
So if you are dilly dallying about writing your memoir, take the advice of these memoir writers and get yourself into a memoir writing group today.
Vice President, Life Stories Australia
Founder, Share your life story