The Good Things You Ought to Have Done

Welcome to the Your Memoir blog.

Here I’ll be writing about my work, memoirs in general and reviewing the memoirs that I am reading.

It seems appropriate to start with a blog about what a memoir is. The word derives from the Latin for memory. So, a memoir is writing based on our memories. Agreed?

A memoir is usually defined as different from an autobiography. An autobiography usually covers the whole of a person’s life. Memoirs usually focus on a specific event or a time in a person’s life. Tony Blair’s book, A Journey, is a memoir of his time in politics. He refers to events outside his work where relevant but he concentrates on the main thrust of his political career. Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook reveals his life from birth to the date of publication including but not focusing on the early years of his career.

Both autobiographies and memoirs are usually written in the first person, whether they are written by the author or by a ghostwriter like me.

According to the American novelist Gore Vidal, “A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research.” Will Rogers, a humorist, says, “Memoirs means when you put down the good things you ought to have done and leave out the bad ones you did do.”

I help people write memoirs and autobiographies. But I called my company Your Memoir because it’s catchier than Your Autobiography! But also because the word memoir goes to the core of what recording parts or all of our personal histories are all about – being remembered.

Soon I’ll blog about some memoirs I have read and some I am re-reading. I have read My Booky Wook by Russell Brand but A Journey by Tony Blair remains on my To-Read list. This year I have read War by Sebastian Junger and Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford (pictured) and I’ll be writing about them soon.

How do you define a memoir and which are some of the favourites you’ve read?

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Dear Marnie