Writing Your Memoir by Opening Your Journal – Advice from Susan Wittig Albert


Opening Salvos #12 by Matilda Butler

Journal-pen-paper If you follow Opening Salvos, you know that I interview women memoirists to get their perspective on effective ways to start a memoir. Each discussion has generated insights into multiple approaches. I’ve learned from the conversations and hope you have also. Even if no one technique is right for you, understanding alternatives will help you better consider what will be most appropriate for the memoir you are writing.

Susan-wittig-albert This week, Kendra Bonnett and I had the pleasure of a lengthy conversation with SCN founder, Susan Wittig Albert. As you know, Susan’s newest book is Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Late in the interview, I asked Susan about her decision to have a Prologue, which presents one opportunity for an opening, as well as Chapter One, the more formal beginning to her memoir. I urge you to listen to her thoughts as I think you’ll find some wonderful insights.

Click here to go to the interview with Susan, available on Women's Memoir website. But before you leave this site, I'd like to share one of Susan's points that will may give you a reason to start journaling or confirm the wisdom of the journaling that you are already doing. 

Journal-person-1 For this Opening Salvos, I’d like to break with tradition and discuss a point from the interview that puts a completely different perspective on openings. Consider your journaling as the preparation for your opening. Because Susan’s guest blog and writing prompt on Women’s Memoirs focused on the importance of journals, I began to see a new way to think about openings. 

“I began keeping a journal when I was 26 years old, in 1966,” said Susan. She says that  her memoir would not have been possible without reference to those journals that gave her details about both her internal place and her external world. These journals keep her anchored and provide the data for the memoir. 

Journal-hand-writing Right now, you might be thinking, “Well, it’s too late for me. I’ve never kept a journal.” Susan offers encouragement to start your journal now. You can write daily in a physical journal, on the computer, or even in a blog that can be kept private or opened more widely. You can start today or on a special occasion. Two of Susan’s favorite times to start a journal are January 1–a kind of welcoming the new year–or on your birthday–a celebration of the next year in your life. 

What’s the difference between your journal and the memoir you are writing? Susan has thoughts on that as well. Just CLICK HERE to listen to our conversation with Susan. If you missed her guest blog and writing prompt, CLICK HERE

Get writing and keep writing. Our life stories are important and should be documented.

3 responses to “Writing Your Memoir by Opening Your Journal – Advice from Susan Wittig Albert

  1. Ahh…journaling.
    My journal, myself.
    My journal, yourself.
    My journal, ourselves.
    My journal, my memoir.
    May it be all of these.
    Janet Riehl

  2. I have journaled since I was very young. I have an after school writing club and when I showed my students all my journals they were amazed.
    I have written a memoir of sorts-it is a compilation of letters during a particular time in my life. I know these writings saved my life. My husband also says the writings made me who I am today. I cannot say enough about writing…

  3. Janet. Thanks for your comment. Susan makes such a powerful case for the importance of journaling. And yes, it does have multiple aspects.
    -Matilda

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