While this is definitely a year that most of us will be happy to forget, what many people are doing, as they wait out the seemingly endless days in lockdown, is looking back at their memories.
As we have felt under threat and life has changed in painful and unexpected ways, there has been a shift in our collective values, away from the frivolous and material and towards what matters most – the people we love. And this has given rise to a longing, in so many of us, to write our personal stories. As a result, writing memoirs has never been as popular as it is now. Memoir is having a moment, and it is bringing enormous pleasure, both to those who are writing them and to those who read them.
Writing a memoir brings a chance to escape the present, with its monotone focus on government briefings and TV repeats and to think about other times, different times, technicolor times when people laughed and played and worked and hugged one another and could sit around a table together without feeling anxious. At the same time it is more than just something to immerse yourself in until spring comes and we can emerge into the sun again after a bleak year and a long, dark winter. It’s a way of making sense of your life, coming to terms with past events and creating a legacy of words, sometimes just for family and sometimes in the hope that it might help or amuse or interest others.
We have a new-found awareness now that life is precious and that we cannot take for granted those we love, especially older family members. Many ghostwriters have had calls, in recent months, from adult sons and daughters, asking us to write their parents’ memoirs. ‘We want them to tell their story,’ they say, ‘We want to know about their lives and what they have lived through and learned. We want their memories, to keep for our family’.
A memoir is intensely personal. Although it has a lot in common with autobiography, it’s not quite the same. They are both personal accounts, but while an autobiography is a chronological account of a life, from birth to adulthood to old age, a memoir can be far more flexible. A memoir might be about just one part of a life, or one aspect; a relationship, a journey of self-discovery, a trip around the world. Or it might encompass a whole life, in an order that isn’t necessarily from A to Z, but which makes sense to the author. A memoir is fluid. It can bend whichever way you want it to, because it’s your story told in your way.
Every life has a story to tell. Every one of us has lived our lives learning and discovering, making mistakes and finding unexpected joys, falling in love and dealing with loss. Every one of us has something to say, a piece of wisdom, a funny story or advice to pass on.
It brings a deep sense of satisfaction when a memoir is completed. So seize the moment, pick up a pen or pick up the phone and call one of us. It’s the perfect time to tap into your memories.