Episode #37 – Memoir Is a Window

On this fifth Thursday of the month, I want to feature a quotation from William Zinsser, an accomplished journalist and author of On Writing Well, a book still used to teach writing in colleges everywhere though initially published in 1976.

Today, we focus on text from the chapter called “Writing About Yourself: The Memoir.” He explains, “Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life.”

Zinsser says our job as memoir writers “is to be the editor of our lives.” We can’t just dump all our memories onto the page if we expect to write a coherent memoir.

We have to give our half-remembered events a shape and an overarching idea and then choose moments to support both. Focus on the moments of your life and write them well.

Zinsser’s subsequent books–Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past and Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher are equally excellent.

Remember, the only way to do this wrong is to not do it at all!

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Wanjiru Warama
1 year ago

I’m glad you have used William Zinsser; I have read several of his books – I still own 4th and 5th edition of “On Writing Well.” He’s one of my mentors. But because of my background (I was born and raised in Kenya), and my need to leave a legacy for my family, I deviated, slightly, from the window. I decided to write a series of memoirs, which reach out and include my community’s historical facts.

Etya Krichmar
1 year ago

I read two of his books – Writing Places and Writing about your Life

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