A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stages of Life for the Purpose of Memoir

Stephen Jefferys starring in the ''Tomorrow’s ...Stephen Jefferys starring in the ''Tomorrow’s Memoir' (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


      There are a number of theories and philosophies about the stages of human life.    These stages may number from three or four to as many as twelve to fifteen, depending on considerations of what is being measured.  The criteria can be based on biological, sociological, or psychological factors.  All views are relevant and totally appropriate according to the outlook of the viewer.  From my point of view I would like to consider the four stages of life as seen through the eyes of the memoir writer.

        I would posit that there are essentially four major general stages that affect the memoirist:

  1. The developmental years of infancy to preschool age childhood. (from birth to about age 5)
  2. School days  (from about age 5 until the early twenties and in some cases later)
  3. Work years (Generally starting as early as age 18 or even earlier and ending usually at retirement)
  4. Age of reflection (Usually starting in the sixties until ones death.)
            Each stage has a specific meaning and impact upon the memoir writer.  Sometimes a memoir might be undertaken within one of these stages and will provide an account of something relevant to that particular period of the writer's life.  Obviously a memoir written during one of the early stages will not be a complete life story, but only a look at a life to date or certain instances that are important to that person and of potential interest to others.

           This slice of life writing is a topical memoir that tends to focus on a notable period of a person's life to date.   A memoir of this nature might for example look at a young person's experience of being bullied and how they overcame it, or a battered spouse's ordeal and eventual escape from the situation, or a successful business person's rise to success.  These types of memoirs are not the complete story when looked back upon, but merely chapters of the larger life story.

            My intent in this post is to establish a groundwork for some future posts I will be presenting that will look at each of the four stages of memoir writing.  Forgive my ruminating, as I hold no claim to expertise on this topic.  The views that I am expressing here and in future posts are in a sense for the sake of personal contemplation and to seek other opinions about this topic.  I look forward to hearing some of your thoughts about this.

             What are your views on memoir writing?   Do you agree with the stages I've proposed?  Which life stage do you think has the most impact on an individual?   Which stage is richest for memoir material?

              I welcome guest posts on any of these topics if you have something special you'd like to discuss about one of them.


         
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14 comments:

RHYTHM AND RHYME said...

Very interesting Lee, though I am trying to ignore the last stage as I'm very well aware of it,

Yvonne.

Wendy said...

I look forward to your upcoming series. By establishing these 4, you have already helped me organize the many stories rushing through my brain vying for first place. The first stage intrigues me because I wonder how much I REALLY remember. My parents and grandparents were great about repeating stories of all the cute and funny things I did as a kid. As a result I have pictures in my head of where events took place, but I wonder if the memories are mine or if I created them.

Dana said...

I'm very interested in your series.

For me, the stage that probably had the most impact is number two, simply because I can see where choices I made in that stage have led me to where I am today. Very interesting to think about!

D.G. Hudson said...

I like the idea of a memoir, but am currently working on other genres. I'm in the process of writing my stories for the kids, since I came from the States, and they know Canada as home.

I asked my mom to write her stories, she only got to a couple, never finding the time. I plan to do better and have several stories in the book already for my kids.

I agree with your breakdown of categories and think the school age may be the time when we are at our most vulnerable, but also at an age when we are able to make dramatic changes (e.g., leave home, travel Europe, etc.)

I'll be back to read the future posts, Lee. I have an interest in these things, too.

CMSmith said...

I'm working on my dad's story and I think your categories are good. It's a little frightening, personally, to think I may be more in the last stage than the 3rd one. Yikes.

Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

As you may remember, I think we are cheating future generations when we don't log our life in some way. No life is too boring to record.

Great post!
T

Arlee Bird said...

Yvonne -- I preferred the earlier stages I think, but this last stage is inevitable for those of us who make it that far.

Wendy -- Those earliest years can be rather trick and probably have to be fabricated in certain ways when we don't have enough information to go on.

Dana -- The school years are probably the most filled with stories and memories for many of us. I get into this more in an upcoming post.

DG -- My father wrote down some of his life before he died. I've tried to get my mother to write down some of her stories, but she's just not a writer. If I lived closer to her maybe I could spend some time writing down some of the stories, but my visits with her are few and far between. We talk on the phone a lot and now and then I'll get her to tell me a story, but it can be difficult on the phone.

CM -- I've accepted the fact that I've crossed over into my 4th stage as I think my career days are finished. I may work at times again, but now I'm probably more into the retired guy stage who's become a thoughtful writer.

Teresa --- You are right about the journaling idea and I'm a bad boy that I don't do more of this sort of thing.

Lee

Dee said...

Dear Lee, I've been writing an on-line memoir for the past sixteen months and have skipped back and forth among your categories. For myself, the categories you've posited work.

When I posted stories about the social justice I pursued in my working, more followers/readers commented than on the first and second categories.

I think that's because in the third category postings I included so much of what was happening in the United States at the time of the story. Those who commented usually said something about what they were doing at the time of the story. Peace.

militaryzerowaste said...

Though the childhood experience seems to burn such vibrant memories in the mind, I always find it the least interesting. And the last one seems to be when folks actually have the experience and time to sit down and write about everything, I find it covers too much. My favorite are the two inbetween. Though I have to say, when Frank McCourt wrote Angela's Ashes I didn't think it could be beat--that is, until he wrote 'Tis. That one was even better! Memoir is the only thing I read. I'm not a fan of fiction. If it didn't actually happen, I have little interest. But listening (or reading) about someone else's life is the most fasinating thing to do. And about random people, folks I would normaly never meet. I don't want to read about famous people, don't give a rat's ass about them. I want to hear about the couple lost in the Amazon for two weeks or the woman from NY who moved to a village in AK. And it doesn't have to be sensational. Trail of Crumbs documented a three year stint of an adopted Korean-American from LA who spent 3 years cooking in rural France with her lover. It might be my favorite book of all time. Can't wait to hear more about yours! :D

LD Masterson said...

From a memoir standpoint, I wonder about including the early years (up to five). I usually think of a memoir as a reflection on one's personal experiences/memories. How many of us actually remember events (feelings, etc.) from those years?

Arlee Bird said...

Dee -- Different stages can work better because of what happened during that time or as you describe, the historical background behind the life story.

MZW -- I agree that lives with I can identify better are often more interesting. I'm not that interested in celebrity memoirs usually.

LD -- I've read some memoirs that have included those early times and they do seem strange, but if something significant has happened during that time then it can be something that is essential to talk about. I'll be going into this stage more in my next post.

Lee

Richard said...

Memoirs are much like novels. They have an arch, a beginning, middle, and end. I've read quite a few memoirs, and they tend to focus on one intense experience the writer had. That one intense experience may cover any one or any combination of life's stages. You cover too many experiences and it becomes an autobiography.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee - I think it depends on who and why .. ie if you're highlighting someone's blindness perhaps and how they coped - or is the view taken from the memoirist only .. it then becomes a history of the times (extended back too, as mine would be) - perhaps that then is not truly a memoir. That would be where mine would fall .. also because there were no grandchildren. Also because it could open doors to similar stories but from my father's side ..

So it be taken from different view points ... interesting thoughts.

Cheers Hilary

Jennifer Crow said...

Interesting. I never thought to categorize it in stages, although your breakdown makes sense. I would suggest that the latter stages, working in concert with the earlier stages cause the most insight and the most impact.

My reasoning is that as we develop psychologically and in maturity (one hopes) we also begin looking for meaning in many places. As we encounter something in our current stage, it often triggers a memory of an earlier one and only now are we able to see and understand that impact.

So while the earlier one might have started the ball rolling, the current stage might well be the catalyst that brings it into conscious awareness!

Nice food for thought!