It’s often difficult to start writing your memoir because you often do not know what to include or where to start and what part of your life to include or indeed should it be all of your life.
We will cover some of these other things on another day, but for now, it would make sense to simply answer the question about what is the difference between them all.
I’ve written a memoir which is a collection of short stories. This is currently unpublished as I want to rewrite some of it, bring in a theme and some learning points. Naturally, this will change the book into what I call a personal story. It is definitely not an autobiography.
In addition, I have another book that is on the back burner which is a slice of my life and is very much about finding myself. It’s a memoir and a healing one at that. When I write it I know that as I journey through my story it will bring stuff up which I’ll need to deal with, which is often the case. Again, I’ll write about healing through memoir another time.
People often get confused about writing memoirs, autobiographies, biography and personal story. For clarity they are:-
- A memoir is a slice of your life, told as a story
- Autobiography is most of your life
- A biography is a story about someone else
- A personal story is a slice of your life with a learning point
Unless you are famous, autobiography is best left until fame and fortune have called. Although, you could write a cradle to grave tome for your family. Typically autobiographies are written about you, rather than by you, as in memoir.
A memoir is a story about you, written by you. It is a slice of your life rather than all of your life. The writer will reflect upon a time of their life and share their experiences with a conclusion of sorts. It can also be a slice of life that has historical value.
For me, though the personal story is much deeper than a memoir slice of life. This is my interpretation of the difference between a memoir and a personal story, rather than an official one. Although, I’m not sure who decides what is official.
A personal story is a way to write about a part of your life that has enabled you to create change, expansion and transformation and is designed to inspire someone else to do something with their life. It is connected to your core message and is often used as a part of your personal brand.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a memoir as “a narrative composed from personal experience”. It is often confused with an autobiography which is described beautifully by Gore Vidal. “A memoir is how one remembers one’s life, while an autobiography is a history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.”
- As a legacy for your family
- To tell an important story around a historic event
- Your story around a theme – which could be happy or sad, or both
- A story around a central point (e.g. your personal growth, the journey to self-love, confidence and self-worth)
- As a way to heal and heal others
- As part of a self-help book – you share story and tips
- An important human story that highlights the need for social change
- A part of your life that links very clearly to your core message and personal brand
Questions to kickstart your memoir
A little bit about you
- Who are you?
- What is your story?
- Why are you writing your memoir?
- What is the most important thing you want to discover?
- What are the life experiences that make you who you are?
- If you were to view your life from an outsider’s point of view, what would you know about your life?
- Like all exercises, it is best not to think, but to just write.
- If your life was a book, what would it be called?
- What would it be about?
- Who are you writing it for?
- Why do you want to tell your story?
Remember that you are a change-maker and not just a memory keeper
You hold an important role, you have memories and experiences that need to be shared. It is by sharing your deeply emotional personal story that others can make meaning. When they know that they are not alone, they too can make meaning. Stories are the backbone of humanity and we have a responsibility to help each other to grow and the planet to heal.
All stories, memoirs, autobiographies, biography and personal story are all equally important. Choose the outcome you want before you start writing and get writing. If you need more inspiration read this blog.
If you need some more inspiration check out kickstart your memoir. This online course will help you to explore your memories.