The Leap

This is an essay I wrote in a workshop 13 years ago at the beginning of my foray into life stories. More than a completed assignment, it was a conversation with myself. Last night, my Memoir Circle embraced its message as a challenge to dig deeper in writing. Its thoughts apply to anyone attempting to craft a memoir for themselves or another person/couple.

It occurs to me that there are parallel distinctions between living and thriving, writing and authoring and autobiography and memoir that, if explored, will offer some perspective.

To live is to survive day to day, hour by hour, letting events happen and reacting as needed, worrying that some will be painful and longing for pleasant things of the past. To thrive is to seize each moment, confident that whatever presents itself will be enjoyed, accepted, managed or changed through positive action.

To write is to link words together in a congruent, correct whole; carefully constructed and punctuated sentences becoming paragraphs and paragraphs evolving into longer works. To author is to create; to share what’s internal; to let words paint pictures of the soul; to become intimate with rather than to impress the reader.

An autobiography is the complete account of a life; an objective story in chronological order illustrating how the author was born, how he lived and how he is preparing for death. A memoir is an opening of the heart; an intentional, cathartic sharing of pains, tragedies, joys and accomplishments that an author believes will nurture self-understanding as it connects her with others in compassion, commonality and mutual respect for life.

The challenge in authoring a memoir is to set aside writing perfection while rising above anxiety, shame and pride. It is a microcosm of the challenge of thriving, in that it requires awareness and authentic effort versus habitual reactions and rationalizations. For a writer who believes that good writing is simply grammatical precision and factual content well presented, a memoir is a terrifying plunge into feelings that if left unremembered and unexpressed will haunt and remind her that the bridge to authorship was beyond her precipice.

Janette Quinn


  1. Kathy Keroson
    Nov 18, 2013

    Dear Jan,
    I’m so excited to come across your site. As the author of an upcoming two-book memoir series (Naperville), I’m a big advocate of people writing down and preserving stories of themselves and/or past ancestors. As I embark on my new venture of promoting my book at speaking engagements, I’d like to explore the idea of recommending people to come to you if they don’t feel they can do this themselves. Perhaps sometime in the future we could meet for coffee and throw around the concept of me offering to include for you and your business as one of my resources. Let me know what you think. Kathy Keroson,, phone 715-362-3516. Google me and you’ll come across my recent articles in the LocalTrib.

    • admin
      Nov 19, 2013

      Dear Kathy: Good for you! It’s a great idea, and I’d love to explore how we may promote story-sharing, however they are developed. Thank you for your comments. I will be in touch. (( :

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