Memoirs, a late-bloomer project?

The writing of memoirs occurs in one's later years. Hence, they are often undertaken by late-blooming writers.

Midlife is often characterized as the time when people change careers, wardrobes, cars, residences and, sometimes, even partners. But most often, thankfully, the changes are not so traumatic as all that. People just settle into a slower, more reflective lifestyle, perhaps including such new activities as yoga, meditation, painting, or, yes... writing, be it poetry, short stories, travelogues, personal memoirs, or something more – like a novel.

“But what audacity!” you might say to yourself. “Who am I, after all these years, to think I can just sit down and write something people will actually want to read? My life has not been exceptional enough to merit memoirs, and I don’t know how to write.”

The Way Life Is is not a memoir, but autobiographical in style.

The notion of writing may intrigue you alright, but your experience to date has been the odd letter or email to friends and colleagues. You think nothing you’ve experienced thus far in your life is worth writing a sentence about, let alone a whole book.

But you don’t have to be an accomplished statesman or world famous figure of some sort to have memoirs worth sharing. It’s time for the late-blooming writer in you to emerge.

Into his 80s, Dr. J. Cameron MacDonald of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, decided to publish The Island Doctor: Myths, Memories, and Musings of a Country Doctor. It’s a fascinating, entertaining collection of stories about his years as a country doctor in the 1950s when he served about 1,200 good souls on two small islands in the Bay of Fundy.

Then there’s Leonard Stone. Retired from his position as executive director of the Florida Symphony Orchestra, he went to work putting a book together on the Second World War battles over the bridges at Arnhem in Holland.

As a boy growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, Leonard had become fascinated with those battles after seeing a movie about them. Off and on, he researched his subject for many years before publishing Red Devil Rising, a fictionalized novel about the bridge battles... and the book has done well.

Really, when you think about it, whether you’re 15, 50, or 85, there’s no better time than the present to get started. In fact, the longer you’ve been hanging around, the more grist you will have for your writing mill.

Although we may be too modest to say so, we all live rich and varied lives, some richer and more varied than others, but everyone has their story, or stories... a well of experience to draw from as late-blooming writers. The difficulty is often that we think we’ve lived such a narrow and focused life that there is no well at all, let alone one filled with rich and varied experiences.

This misconception comes from the fact that, when viewed through the rear view mirror, the decades we’ve spent doing a particular job or profession and living a particular lifestyle look pretty narrow, even boring. However, to people who have not lived that lifestyle, not had your particular experiences, your collection of memoirs could be pretty interesting.

The point is this: don’t avoid getting to it out of fear that your life has not been interesting enough. Start recounting those memorable situations we all carry around and reminisce about when we’re with friends and family. Soon you will have a few, then a few more, and finally, enough of them to begin massaging them into a publishable collection that might astound even you.

“But,” you insist, “I don’t have any writing ability whatsoever.”

Well, maybe that’s so and maybe it’s not. That’s what “massaging” is all about, and you don’t do that alone. There’s a virtual library of good books available to help you work toward becoming better at your new craft. And supplementing them are numerous writing groups, writing courses and websites on writing to fit every genre and every aspiration. Even as a working journalist I had trouble focusing on my own family's story until I joined a writing group and got going with The Way Life Is.

And, of course, you should engage an editor at some point along the way, and the sooner the better.

For more on writing

Ghost writers
Basic skills for writing memoirs and more
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