Today my friend Ruth Davis, an expert on all things related to Mac computers, shared a link to a Donna Baier Stein’website called “Words, Spirit & You.” I loved it and actually “liked” the page after just one experience with it.

Here’s today’s picture and the quote that goes with it.

“I have been writing my heart out all my life, but only getting a living out of it now…. … it’s not a question of the merit of art, but a question of spontaneity and sincerity and joy I say. I would like everybody in the world to tell his full life confession and tell it HIS OWN WAY and then we’d have something to read in our old age…”

— Jack Kerouac

I think it’s wonderful that Kerouac wanted the writing of memoir to become universal and a source of meaning in old age, something he never got to experience. He died at age 47. Hats off to Jack today and to his idea.What do you think this quote from one of the founders of the Beat Generation?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Johanna on June 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I think there is something sacred about the memoir. I’m not talking here about the celebrity tell all or political debriefings–none of the tabloid stuff. But each person’s life is a unique mystery, and it often holds insights and encouragement for others. It broadens our experience. At its best, and most authentic, it bears the fingerprint of God.
    Johanna, author of the spiritual suspense memoir ‘Graffiti On My Soul’

  2. shirleyhs on June 1, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Oh, Johanna, you’ve touched my heart with this comment. Yes! This is why I created this blog and want to write my own story. Thank you for writing a book for this reason. I know it must be wonderful when it comes from such a deeply spiritual space.

  3. Annette Gendler on June 1, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I say you don’t have to be old to write a memoir – you can, in fact, write several over the course of your lifetime. After all, a memoir is not an autobiography but focuses on one aspect of your life. And there are many aspects!

    • shirleyhs on June 2, 2011 at 1:35 am

      Excellent point, Annette. Kerouac would be a case in point, although his books are called novels. What’s interesting to me is that the quote is focused on others and on the social good it would accomplish if everyone wrote an honest story in an individual way. Haven Kimmel was quoted to me by a friend as saying the if she ruled the world, people would have to tell their stories to get their first social security check!

  4. Jerry Waxler on June 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Oh this is a good coincidence. I’m reviewing a memoir “Accidental Lessons” by David Berner, who happens to be a Kerouac fan. He’s living in Kerouac’s house.

    It’s not every week I hear about Jack Kerouac twice.

    Memory Writers Network

    • shirleyhs on June 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      Lovely coincidence to be sure. I enjoyed reading about the house and about Jack’s writing habits. I hope the house will bring David incredible luck and creative energy. Sounds like it is doing so.

  5. Richard Gilbert on June 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Great thought by Jack! A real soulful counterpoint to the fiction writers who denounce memoir–something that seems to be happening with some regularity lately. Let millions of flowers bloom.

    • shirleyhs on June 3, 2011 at 1:15 am

      You know, Richard. If Kerouac’s manuscript (scroll!) was read by an editor today, what are the chances that he would be advised to call it a memoir instead of a novel? And other writers such as Thomas Wolfe might get the same advice. Willa Cather called her novels “cremated youth.” This genre thing may be more about marketing and about generational differences than it is about any purity of form. What think you?

  6. Sharon Lippincott on June 3, 2011 at 2:36 am

    I’m always inspired by the effort many people put into writing to make sense of their lives and sticking with it until they do. Even those who don’t set out with that intent often find unexpected flashes of insight. What a shame Jack can’t join us. Or perhaps he’s cheering us on from The Other Side.

    • Shirley on June 5, 2011 at 9:12 pm

      I love the idea of having Jack at my back, Sharon. Thanks for a great image–and for your words of encouragement to all of us.

  7. Brenda Bartella Peterson on June 4, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Thanks, Shirley, for sharing Jack’s thought with us. I, too, have heard the rumor that memoirs have peaked and will not be in demand in the future. Hogwash! As long as there are people on this planet, people will be curious about people. I actually would go so far as to say that memoir has had more impact on the novel than vice versa. People are starving for authenticity.

    And, yes, Sharon, I appreciate and represent your comment that we can even learn from writing our own memoirs. I learned a great deal about my self and my life by writing mine. I am a better person for it.

  8. Shirley on June 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Bravo, Brenda. I’d be interested in a guest post on either one of your assertions–the novel v. the memoir form or what you learned by writing your memoir.

    • Brenda Bartella Peterson on June 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Shirley, I would be honored to do a guest post on what I learned from writing my memoir. Would you be interested in having that now or after my memoir is published. Which begs the question, “when will it be published?” And the answer is, “If God knows, she’s not telling me yet.” But it will, indeed, be published. Let me know your preference.

  9. shirleyhs on June 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Brenda, the timing is up to you. When you are ready, send a finished post to me at shirley.showalter at gmail dot com.

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