So for the next few posts, we’re going to look at something we ALL have in common, and many of us long to share but don’t know how—our stories. Important stories. Stories of life lived, lost, redeemed, and learned.
I’m going to arm you with tips and resources I’ve gleaned from others who have ventured in these waters, and pass them along in hopes you will be inspired to don your floaties and dive in.
The importance of memoir: connectedness. Lee Gutkind, in Keep it Real,* puts it this way: “The telling of tales does more than entertain. It transmits important information between generations, making important events of the past relevant. The memoir . . . creates a million little connections threading an otherwise fragmented postmodern world with the narrative of human meaning” (112).
“Story is how we figure things out. We need to know . . . the rest of the story.”—John Eldredge. Epic
“Stories travel on their own, and they have a better chance sticking with people.”—Kyle Matthews
And if you are a Christian story teller, and you don’t tell your stories, who will? Consider this: the next generation after Joshua “did not know the LORD, nor the work which He had done for Israel”—Judges 6:10.
But if you are not the illegitimate daughter of the wealthiest man alive, or the lone survivor of plane crash; if you’ve lived a simple life within one hundred square miles and eaten Cheerios every morning for the past ten years, what do you have to say?
According to Flannery O’Connor, “Anyone who has lived to the age of 18 has enough stories to last a lifetime.” And that means you.
The secret? You don’t need the spectacular to have something to say. A good memoir discovers the “mysterious in the familiar” (Vivian Gornick), transcends the personal, and touches the universal in the heart of us all. Rather than delivering a serious case of navel-gazing, it gives us a glimpse into what it means to be human. That is what we long for in the stories we seek.
And that can be discovered on the most ordinary of days.
So start sifting through some of the images, snapshot scenes that stick in your mind, aha moments of insight or change, people or places that have affected you, things you’ve gained and things you’ve lost. Once you have a handful of memories, we’ll talk about the next question a memoirist has to ask: So what?
We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. Psalm 78:4
*Gutkind, Lee, and Hattie Fletcher, editors. Keep it Real (W.W. Norton &Company, 2008).