By Anne Fullerton
Many of us plan to write a memoir, but it’s often easier said than done. November is National Memoir Writing Month, so there is no better time to get started on your writing.
Keep in mind that while an autobiography is someone writing the story of their entire life, a memoir focuses on a particular episode, period, or theme in one’s life. It does not have to be chronological, and it can be fairly long or quite short. The end goal for your work does not have to be publication – you can write a memoir for family and friends, for one person in particular, for a blog, or just for yourself. Nothing glorious or destructive has to have happened in your life to warrant writing a memoir – everyone has a story to tell.
If you’re having trouble getting started or deciding exactly what you should focus on, try plotting out your life. For example:
- list the top five critical moments in your life,
- list your top five most influential people, or
- list your top five biggest mistakes and successes.
If you start here, it is likely that something will stick out as particularly significant or poignant. If you have a popular story about yourself that others seem to enjoy, that may also be a good place to start.
It is helpful to be able to rely on more than just your memory. If possible, refer to a journal or diary, old photographs, notes on your phone, or talk with others who have shared experiences with you. Once you have collected your thoughts, notes, and memories, it’s time to actually sit down and organize them into a cohesive and interesting story.
A memoir isn’t written in a day. Try breaking the month into manageable sections for writing. Find a time that works for your schedule, and commit to writing, for example, 500 words or 2 hours per day. Also, remember to put aside time at the end of the month for editing.
Remember, a memoir is an honest and personal portrayal, so leave lots of yourself on the page. Whether funny, sad, enlightening, or informative, your memoir is a personal story.