On Memoir: Be True to Yourself and Think Small

Jul 11 2016

by Catherine Hamrick

Quote on memoir William Zinsser

I admire many authors who teach writing. However, my go-to coach is William Zinsser. Reading his book On Writing Well transformed my writing in college. I devoured his later works. More recently, I have contemplated his thoughts on memoir.

Zinsser dropped many great lines. This one rings true as I write slice-of-life pieces: “be yourself, speak freely, and think small.” It appeared in the essay “How to Write a Memoir” (The American Scholar, Spring 2006). Among the nuggets:

And above all, be patient with yourself. Amazingly, in Writing about Your Life: A Journey into the Past (2004), Zinsser stated he did not find his voice until he wrote On Writing Well while in his fifties. The generous teacher and author remained current, embracing new forms. His popular blog, Zinsser on Friday, won a National Magazine Award in 2012—when he was 89.

To learn more about William Zinsser, visit his website. You’ll find him on saxophone, improvising with Arnold Roth on piano.


Catherine Hamrick View More Blog Posts from this Author

After a few years as a copywriter for the Southern Living Advertising Department, editor and writer Catherine Hamrick learned her craft in the magazine and book divisions of media giants Time Inc. and Meredith Corporation. She taught writing, literature, public speaking, and business communication at the university level. As a freelancer, Catherine has tackled "almost every topic but porn and physics" and has managed editorial projects or co-authored branded books for imprints such as Southern Living, Oxmoor House, Meredith Books, Better Homes and Gardens, Traditional Home, Country Home, Midwest Living, The Home Depot, Ortho, and Lark Publishing. Certified in social media marketing, she coaches students and professionals in writing resumes, cover letters, and online profiles. She is also a ghostwriter—that is, a professional keeper of secrets. Connect @ChamrickWriter or drop by her blogs: Random Storyteller (https://randomstoryteller.com) and Catherine Hamrick: Writer, Editor, Social Media Human (https://catherinehamrick.com).

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