A poor thing, but mine own

I have made a start on the memoir. Until now I have been talking about, researching, thinking about, and making notes for it – everything except actually writing it. Siblings have sent me lots of useful stuff that they have found about memoir writing. I appreciate it all. All the encouragement has been fabulous, as well! It has all helped me refine the concept, and get to grips with the actual doing of it.

One question I was asked was, is it going to be a memoir or an autobiography? These categories obviously overlap. I had always thought of memoir as something fairly contained in time. Those that I have most enjoyed have often been a record of an episode in the author’s life. (Peter Stothardt’s On the Spartacus road is an example.) Autobiography, on the other hand, has always seemed like more of a record of the author’s life; a biography written by the subject. Obviously no account of anyone’s life can be 100% complete. As a form, however, to me, autobiography aims to be comprehensive. Mine will be quite selective, and thus more of a memoir.

Over the years I have read quite a few memoirs and autobiographies, as well as straight out biographies and autobiographical novels: just about every permutation.  It is evidently a form capable of enormous variation. I have learned something from most of these. Whatever I produce will be informed by these examples, but mine as well.

I can see that I am proceeding about it in a rather subterranean way. I have made quite a few notes, including a list of episodes that seem worthy of inclusion. (This list is in tabular form, so that I can mark off the episodes that I have written, whether these have been revised, and so on.) I thought about possible structures, and even titles, and wrote all these down as well. Some time then passed, during which I didn’t write anything at all extended. On Friday, however, I felt it was time to start.

I read an article that included a useful tip from Hemingway: every time you finish, write down a pointer about where to start next time. (I’d discovered this myself when writing my minor thesis about forty years ago, but forgotten it.) I just have to keep adding bricks to the wall. I’ll be doing this on and off. When it is finished, or ready to show, I’ll tell you.

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