Brenda Smit-James ~ Author, Memoirist, Instructor

If I Journal, do I need to Write a Memoir?


Women opening a journal to write a memoir

Is your journal one of your besties? Do its pages hold your thoughts, your heartache, and your dreams?

I know that mine does. In fact, as a keen journaler, my journal and I are on good terms. During my grief, I journaled extensively. So much so that my journal became resource material when it was time for me to write my memoir.

I found journaling to be cathartic, a place of healing where I could pour out my heart. I found that I could wrestle questions on the page that would otherwise rattle around in my head and potentially haunt me.

Which then led me to ask this question: If I journal, do I even need to write a memoir?

For me, the answer was yes.

I have found that journaling and memoir writing serve completely different functions.

Journaling certainly can stand on its own as a means of expression and as a record of thoughts and memories. As journaling is personal and subjective, there doesn’t need to be any connection between the daily journal pieces. As a result, it can function as a patchwork of writing and musings.

However, when it comes to writing a memoir, you are essentially writing a story – your story – and that requires that you observe the conventions of writing. This is a key difference when compared to the haphazardness to which journaling lends itself so well (more about the conventions of writing in other blog posts).

Both journaling and memoir writing requires that you engage your voice. The difference here is that journaling is a private expression of your voice, whereas memoir writing is a public voice. It was when I wrote my memoir and started to tell my story, as a story, that I truly found my voice, both as a writer and as a woman. Read more about that in the blog post Writing a Memoir: The Gift of Voice.

How does your voice need to be heard?

Is it time to write your memoir, to raise your voice, and to be heard? Do you need a plan, a structure, a support system? If so, consider joining one of my online or in-person writing circles. This is on offer, for now, and it is FREE. Go to the Writing Circle page and send me a note. I’d love to find a way to support you.

But the best advice I can give you is this - start writing, just start, right now. And did you read Ernest Hemingway's key writing advice on my home page?

Either way, don't wait for the perfect time, it doesn't exist.

 Signature of memoir writer Brenda Smit-James

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