One of the most unpleasant tasks I’ve had in mentoring other writers is to tell them there’s hardly any market for a memoir unless a writer has a huge social media following. Non-fiction publishing is almost entirely platform driven. I’ve long considered it a miracle I received a contract for my book, Faith in the Fashion District, because it is a memoir and I didn’t even have an Instagram or Twitter account when I received the contract. Just goes to show anything is possible with God.
But, just because a memoir will not make it in traditional publishing is no reason not to write it. In fact, I had a recent experience that well proves that point.
I was discussing an element of our family history with one of our children (who will remain nameless because they don’t like to be discussed on the internet―I get that). That child gave me a blank expression, “I didn’t know that.”
I thought it was sarcasm which meant, “I’ve heard that a million times, so don’t tell me again.” But it wasn’t. That child had never heard or didn’t remember that segment of our family story. And it was important. I would say pivotal in terms of what God has done in our lives.
We want our children to remember our histories, because those accounts lay the foundation for who they may become. Those stories give them hope and help in the future. Life is so hectic when they’re young and we discuss so many things. We think they will remember what’s important. Then they go off to school and we lose that daily time with them. We still think they carry the significant details of our history.
Let me tell you from my recent experience, they don’t. And even if they do, details can be lost or the stories may morph over time. That’s why it’s important to capture those stories in a tangible way for the future―to write them long hand in composition books, type them on your computer, or record oral histories.
Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, and other details, just get those stories down. You can always go back and edit. But if you don’t get out a first draft, you won’t have anything to edit.
A friend of mine has been working on her autobiography for her children. She’s written about sixty pages. She told me, “I have a new respect for you as an author while I’ve been writing these stories.” It takes a certain discipline to stay at the writing. I can find all kinds of reasons not to begin― even use laundry as a procrastination tool. You need to set a goal. Even a small one. Long time Atlanta Journal Constitution Writer, Celestine Sibley, had so many writing assignments she had to do for the papers; she didn’t think she had time to write a book. A writer friend suggested she write just fifteen minutes a day toward one. She said it was the best writing advice she ever received and wrote many books that way.
Maybe you’ve already had a nudging to do this, but a voice in your head says you’re not a good writer. Ignore that voice. Do it anyway. Do it even if the decibel level of that voice grows exponentially. A lot of us write with the negatives blaring in our head. Think of this writing as part of your legacy. You are leaving something behind that will perhaps inspire generations of your family.
It may very well be one of the most important things you do in life.
Start right now during this Corona Pandemic, while the distractions in our lives are less. Just begin. You will always be glad you did.
“Write down for the coming generation what the Lord has done, so that people not yet born will praise Him” (Psalm 102:18 GNT).