WriPaMemNo, Day 26: Are You Ready to Write a Memoir?

Write Part of My MemoirOn Day 26 of this memoir writing challenge, I am doing what I originally promised: Looking to Mary Karr’s The Art of the Memoir to analyze my work.

Of course it’s a little late for me to be answering the question I posed in this post’s title, a question Karr suggests you answer before you start, since I am more than 3/4 of my way through my book. But it never hurts to have a reality check.

The following is based on an informal pop quiz that Karr posits to test whether or not you should be writing a memoir at the current moment. According to my answers, I mostly am good to go — but not entirely. What about you?

Why I Am Ready

  • I am old

Why this is good according to Karr

If the events you’re writing about are less than seven or eight years past you might find [memoir writing] harder than you think. Distance frees us of our former ego’s vanities and lets us see deeper into events.


If you’re young, you might wanna wait. Most of us are still soft as clay before 35.

  • I am a rabid reviser and reconsiderer.

Why this is good

If you’re a right-fighter, somebody who never apologizes or changes her mind, you don’t have the fluid nature to twig to the deep river of truth when the spirit draws your forked stick.

Related to the above: if you can’t rewrite, give it up. You need to be able to rethink and correct the easy interpretation.

Why I May Not Be Ready

  • I am vengeful.

Why this is bad according to Karr

If you want revenge, hire a lawyer…Literature’s for something else: the reader

Not sure about that one. I think a little revenge puts spice in a book, especially if (see Why I Am Ready, above) you wait for at least seven or eight years. Revenge is definitely a dish served cold. Karr doesn’t define “revenge,” or quantify it, at least in this early portion of the book. The bible (Romans 12, I looked it up) assigns vengeance to the Lord. Being nonreligious, I don’t plan to cede the pleasure to a deity.

Or to an attorney.

  • My memory isn’t great. 

Why this is bad

That’s pretty obvious. But Karr’s dictate, “If you have a bad memory, give [the idea of writing a memoir] up,” would seem to fly in the face of another bit of advice quoted above: “If you’re young, you might want to wait.”

Here, I’ll turn to Maimonides for a rebuttal: If not now, when?

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

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