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Writing Memoir Different and the Same

Memoir writer Shanda McManus compares the differences and similarities of her children to that of her three memoirs.

By Shanda McManus

January 19, 2023

My five children are very different despite sharing the same genetic material and growing up in the same house. One is a planner, one is a spur-of-the-moment type, one is a logician, one can’t stay quiet, and one speaks as little as possible. Each child has a unique personality and preference, even down to their birth stories. But despite their differences, they each have some qualities that I recognize as coming from me. One child likes to go her own way and is fiercely independent. Another is a grumpy morning person. I think, “Hey, that’s me.”

Three Memoir Manuscripts – Three Different Focuses

I feel the same about the books I have birthed. Over the past three years, I have drafted three memoir manuscripts. Each focuses on a different time in my life. Each has its unique shape: one is a collage, one is epistolary, and one has a classic narrative arc. The writing process varied from project to project. With one story, I had to pull every word out of myself, and another gushed out in a rush.

But each memoir I have written bears witness that I, Shanda, am the author. Whether it’s the voice, the sentence structure, or how I describe setting something marks each memoir as mine. As with my children, each book carries an echo of myself.

Your Writing Is Uniquely Yours

You may be writing a memoir but want to try fiction or poetry. Realize that even though the genre or content may change, each piece of writing you do will have a quality that marks it as uniquely yours.

Writing allows me to stay consistent and true to myself but enables me to change and be different at the same time. It seems contradictory to be the same and different. But I think it’s more complex, like combining the same genetic material but getting different results every time.

So embrace and celebrate the differences and sameness you find in each piece you write.

Shanda McManus has been featured in Intima Journal of Narrative Medicine, Midnight & Indigo, and other publications.