“I’m writing my memoir” sounds like such a fancy phrase. It calls to mind worthwhile accomplishments and personal hurtles jumped and battles fought and all that good stuff.
Essentially, it makes a writer sound important. As well it should.
One doesn’t just write a memoir about everyday life, after all. Not according to the strict marketable definition of the term, anyway. So it would be pretty debatable if I wrote a non-fiction story about the time I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Eggos.
Admittedly, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Eggos is a pretty phenomenal concept, but it’s not quite enough to make a memoir. Not unless it somehow inspired a successful restaurant where everything was some spin-off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with Eggos.
Which, let’s face it, does sound like a fascinating concept.
Consider it unofficially copyrighted. You'll have to go find your own worthwhile idea.
Once you do, you’ll probably be in a good space to write a memoir, as described below in today’s writing-related Definition of the Week.
If you’re writing about a particular time in your life – some singular goal you achieved or obstacle you overcame – then you’re probably writing a memoir, not an autobiography (which we’ll cover next week).
It’s also worth noting that memoirs carry connotations that are much more emotional in nature. Whether this is strictly true to the dictionary definition or not, they bring to mind non-famous people who have made impressive or notable personal accomplishments rather than public icons who have changed the whole wide world.
Just in case it needs to be stated, memoirs are meant to be entirely non-fiction. This means that writers aren’t allowed to add in juicy inaccurate details to spice things up. If the spice isn’t already there, said writer might want to reconsider writing a memoir.
Imagine, for example, that I did follow up on my peanut butter and jelly themed Eggo house (which I’d no doubt have to get special permissions from Kellogg’s in order to promote). And imagine that, overall, I had pretty smooth sailing setting up the restaurant or café or whatever it would be.
Well, everyone knows that smooth sailing doesn’t sell that well. Most people want to experience it, but few people want to read about it.
Smooth sailing is boring.
Even so, I’m not allowed to rough up the non-fiction seas just to produce some tension. There’s no throwing in a non-existent bitter ex-boyfriend who opens up a rival shop next door just to mess with my life’s dream of opening up a place that sells peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Eggos.
(Notice how I keep deliberately referring to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Eggos. That’s called subliminal messaging. I’m priming you to frequent my restaurant as soon as I get it up and running.)
As soon as I add in an element that isn’t non-fiction, my memoir ceases to be non-fiction. Which means it ceases to be a memoir. And if you try marketing it as non-fiction, you could face some serious – and completely deserved – legal problems.
Therefore, if you truly want to be able to say, “I’m writing a memoir,” make sure to keep it straightforward.
Oh yeah, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made out of Eggos... Don’t forget: They’re delicious!