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The other day I was asked, "What is the difference between diary writing and memoir writing -- isn't it all just the same?"
The answer is no. In fact, the two are very different.
For starters, a diary is one's private playground where she can write anything she wants, uncensored, without the threat of offending anyone or the requirement to share with others. Diary writing is something one does to purge her heart and her head of all her "quotidian mysteries" in a random, slap-happy fashion.
That is to say, there is usually no structure to this kind of writing and the entries can be about events ranging in significance and interest depending on the writer's mood. One's diary may include insightful writing, but would not typically be worthy of publishing. (That is, unless you are Anais Nin, or Anne Frank, or Virginia Wolf, et al...)
With memoir writing, on the other hand, the author takes personal events and ties them together with a common theme. A good memoir will have explored the deeper meaning of these experiences as it relates to the human condition, and as such, is written in a literary style.
In the video above, I couldn't remember where I had heard it, but I looked it up and it was Dr. Allan Hunter, who says in his book, "Write Your Memoir: The Soul Work of Telling Your Story" (and I paraphrase this) diary writing is from the ego, but memoir is from the soul.
Don't make the assumption that if it is "from the ego" that it is somehow undesirable. We all have egos, and our egos ensure our survival. Diary practice is a great place to start developing healthy ego, in fact. I've kept a diary for most of my life and growing up in a dysfunctional family, I have to say that writing in my diary was often the only place I could freely express my deepest, most intimate thoughts. It was my lifeline.
My diary continues to be my trusted confidant, to whom I can share anything at all without the anxiety of anyone judging me. It is here I can purge my frustrations, ask perplexing questions, store ideas and observations and just vent on the details of my life with no pressure to do anything else with it. Sometimes, that is enough and after having vented in my diary, I can move on. I can write about my feelings, express gratitude, express rage and other strong emotions, all without feeling presumptuous and without worry of offending anyone.
In this day of self publishing, I've seen a lot of memoirs that actually appear to be "revenge stories," in which the author has written an unflattering exposé about all the people who have hurt her. This does not qualify as a memoir. Or, at least, not a good one.
A good memoir will evolve the reader, just like any compelling literary work. I think of stories like Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" and "Tuesdays with Morrie," by Mitch Albom and, of course, Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" as good examples of writers who experienced profound change for having written their memoirs, but also the countless readers who've grown by having read them.
A good memoir will change the writer, too. I'd like to add that I'm discovering memoir writing is unlike anything I've endeavored to write before. Once you revisit your past with the intention of extracting deeper meaning from the rubble, something strange and beautiful happens to you. Even though you are writing about your personal experiences from memory, what you are really doing is getting out of your way in order to channel healing messages for the masses. Some writers will call this being in flow, and will say that it can happen with any creative pursuit, but truly...
It is as if you are transcribing, translating, transmuting..taking something that was horrific and then...alchemically transforming it into a healing elixir sourced from the ancient archetypal waters of the River Mnemosyne.
Yes, it is your experience of which you write, but it is more like channeled wisdom flowing direct from the Infinite Imagination.
And I do like to think that everything happens for a reason, and that there is a specific divine order that memoir writers (or any creative types, for that matter, when they find their flow...) feel compelled to obey. Perhaps it is true what the mystics say; those who are brave enough to share our tales have incarnated in order to evolve human consciousness, and we know that by writing our stories, we are somehow fulfilling our soul contracts.
So, long story short, diary writing and memoir writing are two very distinctly different styles of writing. Each has its own purpose and place, but the two should not be confused with one another.
My name is Dawn Champine and I am the Creatrix of The Goddess Diaries. I am very passionate about helping women remember their REAL GODDESS selves.