When someone chooses to write a memoir, detailed thought goes into the content of their piece. The length of time it takes to complete a memoir varies by each individual. Memoirs can take years for some, months for others, or even weeks for faster writers. One of the most difficult things about writing a memoir is choosing the memory to use as a basis. Imagine, looking in your file of memories and having to choose one to focus on. Intense, right? The truth is, memoirs can be difficult to write, but in the end it’s worth it. It takes bravery to write a memoir because it exposes life changing events in someone’s life that contributed to shaping them into who they are today. Anything from trauma to poverty, abandonment to illness, and even grief through loss are all common focal points of memoirs. This doesn’t mean that memoirs are entirely focused on the negative, but perhaps the biggest element of transforming into better versions of oneself is overcoming the pain first.

Regardless of what the theme is, every memoir is important. Here are 5 to consider taking a look at, and not all of them initially came from writer background.

Take for instance award-winning photographer, Sally Mann. She wrote her memoir through the inspiration of finding old family photos and papers that explained stories of unknown scandal and curiosity. These photographs sparked Mann’s desire to tell a story and her photography enhanced memoir is today seen as an inspiring read for other memoir writers and eager photographers to look up to. Anyone who hears their passion calling to them like a siren, feels it in their loins, but has a hard time finding it, will relate to this memoir on an immense level.

Our next memoir comes from Joan Didion, an acclaimed novelist having written several successful books in her career. “The Year of Magical Thinking”, a best-selling book, delves into the world of processing grief after someone you love passes away. This memoir is considerably one of the best selections for those mourning a loss and trying to overcome it’s shadows.

This next memoir was written by Patti Smith, a musician in the 60’s and 70’s based in New York. Just Kids talks most predominantly of her young relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe with a poetic twist. It won a National Book Award for its unconventional approach and creativity. 

Philip Glass, a well known minimalist composer of music wrote Words without Music describes an array of influential components in his life, from making music, and traveling from NYC to Paris to India. For the new age writer looking to capture the way creative waves may transform ones’ life, this memoir is an absolute must. After all, music feeds the soul and reading a musician’s words without music may spark some mega inspiration into you.

Our last memoir in the spotlight comes from Oscar Niemeyer, an architect who won a Pritzker Prize for his work for sixty plus years. Based in Brazil, Niemeyer’s non-linear memoir gives insight into how setting and story go hand in hand. He talks about how politics, philosophy and passions (including family and loved ones) have shaped his architecture and lifestyle. This pioneer of “modernism” has plenty food-for-thought to share with you and this memoir won’t disappoint.

Whether you are a photographer, a musician, composer, architect, or novelist, any creative can write a memoir. We live in a day and age where the ideals of having professional background to write a memoir doesn’t confine people who want to write one. These five memoirs are just some of many inspiring works to consider reading.

This article was written with inspiration/ references to these articles: