Why Writing a Memoir is Different from Writing a Journal
My memoir concerns the six years of my life in which I was starting to come to terms with a memory of sexual abuse. In writing it, I had to carve and craft those confusing years into a story for a reader. It’s the reader who brings the writing to life, as Ursula LeGuin said in her essay “Text, Silence, Performance” (in Dancing at the Edge of the World ). The memoirist needs to bring the story into shape and then hand it over to the reader to supply the reactions.
Perspective is vital, as Judith Barringon said. Part of the job of a memoirist is to bring a longer view to the writing, musing about the meanings of her/his experience—whether those musings are explicit, or simply implicit in the framing and selection of the parts of the story.
The reader deserves a well-shaped story that gives meaning to a life, or at least where we see the consequences of events and decisions.