On Writing Memoir

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 in Catherine's Blog, Memoir, Writing Tips

On Writing Memoir

Life is a face of truth, mirroring back to us, ourselves.

Catherine Ann Jones, The Way of Story

The Way of StoryIt is the ‘Age of Memoir’. The rise of interest in memoir recognizes the power of the genre to move and affect not just individual readers but society at large. The story that is your life impacts everything you do and dream.
Connecting with your story is the first step on the path to transforming yourself and your world. Writing your story reveals who you are and how you came to be.

 “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like lHeal Your Self with Writingocked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet 

The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Writing is a means of spiritual growth. Awareness that the soul’s journey is bound to the writing journey shines clearly and is unique because it is your story.

Every man has within himself the entire human condition.
– Michel de Montaigne


I write in order to discover myself.
– Maya Angelou

One client I worked with as a writing consultant wrote a very successful book about regional recipes in Texas that were handed down by family members. It was a coffee table book: on left page, the story of the ancestor or deceased family member and on the right page, the family recipe. Later this same client wrote about a famous ancestor quilt in a book about family quilts and found her niche selling copies in sewing stores across America.

Many older participants in my Way of Story workshops are not professional writers yet wish to write a family history for their children or grandchildren. Here are some tips:

Imagine you are sitting with your grandchildren and telling them about your life. Or, imagine you are telling your life story to your favorite, most compassionate therapist, or imagine you have just received a mysterious email from some alien intelligence beyond Earth, and they want to know about you and your life. What would you tell them?

Who are you? What does it mean to be a human being? Where did you come from?

What is the purpose and meaning of your life?
When it’s all over, what will happen to you, where will you go?

Stories reveal how things came to be the way they are. They tell of beginnings, and of middles, and, if they don’t always have endings, they point, and leave the way open.

The way we answer these questions determines the meaning we give to our lives

Here are a few pointers which may serve as a jumpstart in writing your memoir as a family legacy:


Choose three family photos: Sit quietly, look carefully at each photo, note the details. Details reveal much. Become aware of what feelings emerge as you remember.


Write about the following.

  • Meeting someone who changed your life
  • The birth of someone important to you
  • A mentor who influenced you
  • The moment you knew what you wanted to be or do
  • A magical moment in nature
  • A special experience while travelling
  • Leaving home for the first time & how you felt then
  • Holidays at home
  • A spiritual experience

Family Stories: remember hearing family stories about:

  • Family heroes.
  • Ancestor stories.
  • What is the image of a good person

Remember that people without hope for the future do not write books.

What greater legacy to your loved ones than a gift of yourself.

(For upcoming writing workshops, online courses, consultations, www.wayofstory.com)