Too Young for a Memoir?

Today one of the many articles featured by The Globe and Mail is entitled "Is 36 too young for a memoir?  Not for Michael Bublé" and poses a very interesting question.  At what age is one qualified to write a memoir?  Does it matter who the person is?  Delving further in pursuit of the fundamental basis of this question, what is needed to write a good memoir?

A memoir is, as the name suggests, a collection of memories and reflections.  It is very personal, though how far into private matters it goes depends upon the author - the cynic in me would like to say it is the editor, publisher, and the public who truly decide such matters.  Regardless of who controls the depth of the material, the source is always the same - the one whom the memoir is about.  In a way, a memoir is like an autobiography; it tells the story of the author's life.  The difference between the two emerges in the way the story is told - a memoir is not meant to carefully detail and outline every single important experience in the author's life, rather to share the thoughts and feelings surrounding personal life-changing events.  An autobiography is, in a sense, more factual than a memoir as it is supposed to be based upon verifiable, quantitative, and preferably documented events.  In comparison, a memoir is the qualitative, emotional, story-like companion to the autobiography; its material is not found in national records, likely is not documented, and has a very clearly biased perspective.  They are not the same, though they run along similar lines - and because of the differences in their nature it is not advisable to apply the same criteria standards to them.

What qualifies someone for an autobiography, or a memoir?  Upon what criteria are they to be judged and deemed capable?  Essentially, what is necessary for either?  For an autobiography, the answer is simple - important events.  What has the person done during their life that is of great importance to the world around them, what sort of records are there to research and analyse?  As stated, an autobiography is factual in nature and based upon quantitative facts.  The "personal" element is important, primarily to keep the reader from sheer and utter boredom, but the purpose of the work is to address the what, not the why.  A memoir, on the other hand, is like the tabloid of social historical research.  It has its basis in fact - it is not a work of fiction, after all - but its focus is not on objective analysis.  Here, the "personal" perspective is the entire purpose of the work, its sole source and its essence.  Unlike an autobiography, a memoir is designed to address the why, not so much the what.

"Is 36 too young for a memoir?"  As expected, the answer to this is vague and utterly useless - it depends.  A memoir is based on memories of the important happenings in one's life that influenced and shaped the person.  Age itself is of no consequence; experience, rather than breaths, is the true determining factor.  No one but the holder of the memories and reflections can be the judge of that.  An autobiography, on the other hand, is much easier to determine - what has the person done so far?  Most people have not accomplished enough by the age of 36 to warrant an autobiography, but perhaps they have been through enough life-changing experiences to feel they have something to share with the world.

Taylor Swift, a young singer and songwriter from the United States, is said to be writing a memoir (or perhaps already has, I do not follow these things closely because I truly do not care).  She was born the year after me, so she is younger than me.  And she is ready to write a memoir.  I am not able to write a memoir now, nor do I think I would be able to write one for many more decades.  I am 23, after all, and just out of school.  Yet, someone younger than me has gone through enough and lived enough to write a memoir.  This does not bother me in the slightest, nor does it make me feel like I have accomplished nothing in my life.  In fact, I am happy to see someone younger than me willing to take on such a challenge.  If she has something to share with the world, then by all means, share it.  Show people that age does not matter - because truly, it does not.  Age is just a number we assign to track time, but as any geriatric will tell you it is what you do during that time that defines who you are.

So is 36 too young?  First tell me what that 36 means to you.  If it is the number dictated by the calendar, then yes, you are too young.  But if it just some form of measurement for the time you have spent living, learning, and exploring life, then perhaps you are not too young.  Generally, if you feel you are ready to write a memoir, then you probably are - regardless of age.  So go for it.  Show the world what you are made of.  Show the world what it has made you, and what you have become.  Share your story - but first make sure you have one to share.

"Is 36 too young for a memoir?"

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