“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” 
Aldous Huxley, English writer and philosopher. 

Several years ago I devised and ran a course on Memory writing, Take a Trip Down Memory Lane. The first course was run in 2009. Since then I have presented this course in several places, my own home included, and for a variety of organisations.

But yesterday I began to think, or ask the question, What is the difference between Memory Writing and Writing Memoirs?

Memory writing is just as it says. We write down a memory that we want to keep to pass on to future generations or in some instances, simply for ourselves.

My introduction to the course read “Stories have been used throughout history to pass on information and beliefs to following generations.  The books of the major religions of the world tell stories and our history books tell stories.  What about cave drawings found all around the world?  Life in story form.  These all depicted life as it was lived then.  Younger people learned from these stories.  They learned how life was lived by earlier generations and what was important to the people of those earlier generations.”

But compare this to Natalie Goldberg’s The Practice of Writing Memoir. * Natalie’s introduction reads “There is nothing stiff about memoir. It’s not a chronological pronouncement of the facts of your life: born in Hoboken, New Jersey; schooled at Elm Creek elementary; move to B Flat, New York, where you attended Holy Mother High School. Memoir doesn’t cling to an orderly procession of time and dates, marching down the narrow aisle of your years on this earth.

Memoir gives you the ability to plop down like the puddle that forms and spreads from the shattering of a glass of milk on the kitchen floor. You watch how the broken glass gleams from the electric light overhead. This form of memoir has leisure enough to examine all of this. “

I have taken several courses on Creative Writing over the years. I have recently completed a course on Memoir writing and have read and followed Natalie Goldberg’s book/course Old Friend from Far away.*

But as I look into the question I come to the decision that for me there really is no difference. In Memoir writing, we may look at what came before the visit to the annual fair. Who was there with you and why. And where did you go after? But this can also be the structure of a written memory and it often is.

So do you see there is a difference? Can you explain it to me?

JB 22 July 2022
a palindrome 22722
Wellington NZ


15 thoughts on “Memories”

  1. I think memoir writing is a broad based effort. To me memory writing deals with one specific memory at a time. Oh dear that doesn’t sound right either. Nope I guess I’ve got nothing. But thanks for a great post. Off to re-blog on

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think memory writing means different things to different people. As you know my course calls for one memory to be written out of time. I’m still not very clear about the difference. I shall just keep writing my memories for my grandsons

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I blog my memories. I hope one day that my son or someone will make them into a memoir. Or maybe not. ButI write what I enjoy thinking about, or if its a miserble subject, then I hope it explains a little of why I am as I am.


    1. Thank You M. I have no desire or plan to write an autobiography. I simply write memories for my grandchildren so they have some idea of what it was like growing up in a war torn London it was

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What I’ve learned in memoir classes is that memoir is not simply a recitation of events (that a memory might be) but includes the “so what?” or “what about it?” Why should the reader care? How is the author changed by the memory or collection of events? Clear as mud??😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lois thanks for the comment. Not too sure that it makes it any clearer for me. In any event I will just keep writing my memories however it is described

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I have written my memories for my grandchildren because they have no way of understanding or even knowing about growing up during a war tone childhood.

      Liked by 1 person

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