The past is not dead. In fact, it isn’t even past. William Faulkner
The Importance of Preserving Memories and Exploring the Past
Memories are powerful, and they shape us into who we are; memories invite us to imagine new possibilities to our story. But most of us live in a world where the wisdom we can learn from the past is not valued, where we are told “The past is the past, leave it there.” As a therapist for the last forty years, I’ve discovered that people are often haunted by their past, and the way to heal and move on is to honor it and try to discover its lessons.
We can’t outrun it. It lives within us, especially if we have suffered trauma and have unresolved family issues. As everyone knows who’s attended a holiday gathering, family reunion, funeral, or wedding, these stories and wounds have a way of rising up and entering the present in an explosive and surprising way.
We Are Here to Help
Here at the National Association of Memoir Writers, we believe in the power of your story. As the founder, I have always held the minority view in our culture: that we can learn from the past, the mistakes, and the stories from our ancestors and from the moments where we were on the right path. There are memories that we treasure and that give meaning to our lives for decades to come–and in our memoir we can share that joy with others.
I believe we all have an inner wisdom that we can decide to follow, an invitation to explore who we are through writing, reflecting, and meditating on the moments we have lived. And to share that wisdom and personal power with others so they can learn from us. From our lives and our stories.
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
How to Get Started
People ask me, “Where do I begin? I don’t know where to start my story, so I am still thinking about it.”
Start with something that’s alive within you, a memory, a moment that has meaning to you that has stuck with you for a long time. For me, it was gardening with my great-grandmother when I was eight–the first time I began to learn about the legacy of mothers and daughters in our family, and where I fit in. Or the times my mother would arrive to visit me on the train–I’d lose myself in her scent, in the happiness of being close to her–a moment that was fleeting as she and her mother, who was raising me, began to hash out their pasts.
This was repeated year after year with no resolution. It fell to me in my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother to try to find resolution–for me and for them–which took several years–I was new at writing memoir. And there were times when it was painful and a struggle. I didn’t have a memoir community around me to support my efforts. But finding the pearls on the necklace of my story the moments of meaning and understanding that I was able to discover as I wrote, gave me joy and resolution. The pain has subsided, and I found forgiveness and peace.
Write your scene. Build it with descriptions that include smell, and taste, and the sound of things, the world that you inhabited at that moment in all its glorious detail.
And How to Keep Writing
Then write another scene. You can make a list of the important moments in your life, which I call turning points. This kind of list making helped me finish both memoirs–my second memoir is Song of the Plains. Making the lists and combining outlining with free writing helped me to write Song in a little over a year.
The Power of Community to Support You
Here at the National Association of Memoir Writers, we offer support in our twice a month live teleseminars where you can learn from experts on this amazing journey of writing memoir, and talk with them, and me, and with your other memoir writing colleagues during each call. This kind of personal connection is getting to be hard to find, but I believe it’s important. I look forward to talking with you during our calls! Tell me about why you want to write a memoir, the stories that have stuck with you and what kind of help you need on your memoir writing journey.
To join the National Association of Memoir Writers during our special Cyber-Monday sale at our lowest price of the year, please visit: https://namw.org/2018/11/2018-cyber-monday-sale/
This is what I learned: that everybody is talented, original and has something important to say. Brenda Ueland
Some books to help you write your memoir:
Journey of Memoir–The Three Stages of Memoir Writing –Linda Joy Myers
The Power of Memoir–How to Write Your Healing Story–Linda Joy Myers
The Magic of Memoir–Inspiration for the Writing Journey—edited by Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner
I look forward to meeting you, talking with you and learning about your story during our monthly events. To check out the benefits of becoming a member please visit
Love it. No one who writes historical stories of any kind would disagree. Your words ring so true after six years of researching the history of my grndparents and realizing my mother saved every bit of paper forever and blessed her for it. Now my grandchildren and greats can know their roots and their tribe and I feel so happy. It’s a wonderful process. Amen: Doorway to China – my opus for sure. Thanks for your reflections
Dear Katherine, Thank you for your note and your story. The research and the writing brings the past alive and allows us to share it onward through the generations. Enjoy!
i must say I really love the depth of wisdom in your words… you are so encouraging and so insightful. As you say, it is a minority view to hold tht th east has lessons form which we can learn and transcend trauma and shift patters that are often intergenerational.
Thank you for your wonderful presence, it means a lot to me and I have to confess, I joined in 2014 but still, remained stuck as my day to day life continued to through me off course from my writing goals. Intersectionality – being wacked by the forces of sexism, racism and classism, is an ongoing relaity fo rme… Now I have rejoined and intend to read the resources on your website daily so that I can keep focussed and rioritise my voice and my healing.