Most people who want to write a memoir or family history aren’t professional writers. For them the process of writing a book is a trip through uncharted territory. They are full of questions about how to go about the process.
It’s been a while since I read William Zinsser’s, essay How to Write a Memoir written for The American Scholar in 2006. But when I reread it this afternoon I couldn’t help but believe that Zinsser packed more insight about what it means to write a memoir or family history into fewer words that anybody else has been able to do.
He begins by advising, “Writers are the custodians of memory, and that’s what you must become if you want to leave some kind of record of your life and of the family you were born into. That record can take many shapes.”
From there he offers a mixture of inspiration and practical advice that will keep anyone embarking on the task on track.
If you’re a novice or a seasoned memoirist or family historian, take a few minutes to read Zinsser’s essay. You’ll find yourself applying his suggestions to your own writing immediately.