Writing Memoirs

“I can’t stress enough how different it is to write about the real and the unreal. When I started writing my memoir my whole metabolism changed. I’d just turned 50 and I assumed it was just age, but I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning and I had the most delicious lie-ins of my life! It was just sheer emotional exhaustion, I now realise. Communing with your significant dead is what it amounts to, and that is an exhausting thing. Not unpleasant, but still hard work.”
Martin Amis

“For me, the memoir is not autobiography. It’s very, very distant from that. There’s no attempt to give a chronological rendition of one’s life. I was looking at the traces of the legacies. I used the novelist’s skills of going into the minds of the people you know least – namely my parents before I was born! These are totally mysterious others. You also need to be able to set scenes and to be able create movement in the text and create characters the way a novelist would.”
Lisa Appignanesi


“Lisa Appignanesi and I may have had peculiar lives but they’re also fundamentally universal. The only things that really matter are births and deaths and separations and unions – and we all have them. This is the advice I’d give a prospective memoir writer: the critic leads the reader from quote to quote, but that’s also what the memoir writer does – you’re quoting from memory, and what stays in your memory is the interesting stuff and that’s the stuff you should quote. And if these things hang together at all, you’re on to something.”
Martin Amis

“I think the first thing to do is to select out. Otherwise you’ll have no time to live as you recollect the past – there is a great deal of it! So select out for the moments that have a particular resonance for you. Play with those and see where they take you. They may take you into interesting places and not necessarily the places where you thought you might visit.”
Lisa Appignanesi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *