Story and Why
Memoir and The Larger World
An article by Tom Gilbert - © September,
*Note on September 29, 2017: With all the turmoil in recent months
including hurricanes, earthquakes and nuclear threats, it is more
timely than ever tro consider your life story in the context of the
world at large*
of 9-11 gave me pause to consider my life in the context of that
historical event. I wasn’t in New York City or Washington D.C. on
that fateful September day. But I was connected to the unfolding of the
events. As were we all, those of us who remember where we were and what
we were doing as the terrorist attacks took place. We cannot erase the
images of airplanes flying into the World Trade Centers and the
Pentagon. As painful as they are, it is recorded history. But we also
recall the many faces of people who risked their lives as first
responders, along with the agents of medical aid and good Samaritans.
Many of them sprung into action because it was the humanitarian thing
to do. A horrific event opened the door of opportunity and some
goodness happened amidst the evil of the day.
History takes place every day. Rarely is it of the magnitude of 9-11.
Nevertheless, significant events in our lives are happening.
Considering them in the context of historical events adds depth to our
stories. It gives others an opportunity to relate their lives,
experiences and feelings through the perspective you offer in your
Effective memoir is about more than your life and your interior
experience of emotion. What you experience is indeed your story, but if
you want to pen a memoir that appeals to a wider audience than just
yourself it needs to include what Lisa Dale Norton in her lovely book
on writing memoir, Shimmering Images, calls The Larger World.
A slice of life memoir that includes your experiences set against or
within the context of an important historical event allows your readers
the opportunity to see history through your eyes. This is one of the
gifts of shared life story writing.
In recent years there have been many storms and struggles. Hurricanes
in the Gulf Coast, tsunamis in the Pacific, and the major earthquake
that struck Japan in 2011 are but a few examples.
Think, too, of the political struggles in the Middle East. Democracy is
erupting out of opposition to oppressive governments. In the United
States voices were raised decrying the faults of big government and big
business. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements may not have
the life and death storyline of Egypt, Libya or Syria, but no one can
doubt the impact they are having on our society.
The tale of a Pearl Harbor or Holocaust survivor is powerful. But your
Larger World story doesn’t have to be about tragedy or hardship.
It could be connecting your experience at a major sporting or
entertainment event. Perhaps you were at Woodstock in 1969. Maybe you
are a diehard Boston Red Sox fan and gloried over the long awaited
World Series win in 2004.
Relating “We Were There” personal experiences connects us
to history in a much more personal way than reading about it in a
typical textbook. Stories are one of the most powerful and effective
ways to learn about life. Our purpose becomes clearer and our
perspective enlarged when we read and identify with a well written
account of another’s understanding of history based on their
personal encounter with a significant event.
Being a personal historian avails me the ongoing opportunity to hear
other people’s stories. Furthermore, I get to assist in bringing
forth these tales. It’s akin to being a midwife as individuals
labor through the process of birthing their life stories.
Memoir that takes into account The Larger World is fascinating work. A
little research can add greatly to your personal history. These days a
world of information is at your fingertips. You can access so much
through the Internet alone. Pick a historical event from your lifetime.
Study the news accounts, look at the pictures and video and reflect on
how the event has specifically impacted you. Then begin to write your
Where were you when it happened?
What were you doing?
What was life like during this time?
How did people in your community respond to the event?
How did the event affect you? How did it change you?
I am interested in helping people in the process and I can assist you
when you employ my services as a coach, writer, editor and
researcher. My contact information is here. Call or email me. I
would love to hear from you.