Write down your memories for your kids. . .
…but you better have something extraordinary to say if you want to convince me a published version of those memories will be a bestseller.
When I was a kid, I read books about explorers who kept journals about where they went and what they saw. Some of them happened to know how to draw and included illustrations showing where they went and what they saw.
I was just an everyday kid going to school. Nothing unique there. In spite the fact most of the people who knew me at school would describe me as nondescript, I kept logs (I liked sea stories) and journals (because guys didn’t keep diaries with hideous phrases such as “Dear Diary, Jenny looked at me in between classes today like she wished we were alone in the dark”).
The thing is, I was already too much aware of the fact that writers’ journals and private papers often got published after they were dead and (hence) unable to stop greedy heirs from trying to make a buck off stuff that was supposed to be private. Practically speaking, what this meant was that I made myself look better in my journal entries than I was.
“How will this read in the future?” I asked. This kept my journals from being the cathartic process of self-discovery modern-day advocates of journaling claim is possible. You’ll heal. You’ll change your life. You’ll grow. Maybe so, but truth wasn’t for me.
Consequently, I saved the healing/growing process for my fiction where I tell a story about somebody else while including disguised secrets about myself that I would never dare write down in a journal. These days, everybody and his/her brother is writing a memoir, including people who’re still in high school. But why?
I can’t decide whether all these memoirs by “regular people” are a service to human kind or examples of arrogance run amok.
Maybe some day my kids and your kids will be interested in some of our best true stories about life in an era that will seem very foreign to them by the time they’re reaching middle age. Maybe they’ll want to know about their family and where there ancestors came from and what it was like to live during those dark ages times when telephones were attached to the wall with a cord and didn’t show movies.
But, should you publish those memories as a book? I have no answer to this because–being 37.5% psychic–I know that the moment I say that we shouldn’t, people will come up with a hundred examples of “regular people’s” memoirs that had a great impact on the world. That can happen.
I do like the idea of continuity, the kinds of things we read about in oral history projects that give folks in later generations a sense of what life was like for people in their parents and grandparents generations. Perhaps we can provide that kind of information for our kids. Maybe they’ll never read it. We may never know.
My folks used to send a Christmas letter out every year. Years later, my brothers and I would actually find ourselves referring to these old letters because we could no longer remember what year we saw Niagara falls or when our father received an award. If I’d kept a journal, I would know all this.
If I did know it, I find it hard to imagine that thousands of people would race to the bookstore to buy even a well-edited version of that journal, along with a snappy title and a jaw-dropping cover.
An author’s fiction already contains enough secrets in it than he dares disclose any other way.