Memoir Tip: Two’s Company

The only thing harder than finishing your memoir is starting it. Or more accurately, finding a way to keep going to the finish line once you have started!

If you’ve tried — and failed — to make much progress writing your memoir, here’s a simple tip that can help: find yourself a partner.

Not an editor. Not a critic. Not a parent, and definitely not your spouse (at least if you hope to stay married!)

Find someone you can talk to; someone who supports the best in you. Find someone you can tell your stories to and rest assured they won’t wind up plastered all over Facebook.

Pick a story — any story. One experience in your life that’s still really fresh in your memory. Was there a turning point in your life? A “fork in the road”? Those are great places to start.

Was your life on the line?

Or how about a time when something unexpected happened, or you tried something scary and new. Did you stretch yourself? Was your life on the line?

 

Then make a date. Yes, a “real” date. Put it in your date book. Plaster it on the calendar. Make a time to sit down together with your favorite friend and just talk.

Talking uses different “writing muscles” than sitting in front of a typewriter or computer. We’re less guarded; more open; words flow more freely. We talk all day every day, don’t we?

Talking with a friend is a great way to get a fresh handle on the stories you’ve been meaning to tell in that great memoir. Ask your friend to take notes for you, or jot them down yourself after she leaves. Or buy a digital recorder and just hit “Record” before you start.

Before you know it, your book will be finished!

Voila! You now have a set of notes (or perhaps even a complete recording) — the perfect launching pad for that next chapter in your exciting memoir.

 

Like more tips on memoir-writing? Check out our LifeStory Workbook here!!

Fun tips and exercises to help keep you going.

 

 

Memoir Writing: Getting Unstuck

It happens to every would-be memoir writer: your words somehow just stop flowing. Or maybe, despite good intentions, they never get started.

So you keep telling your kids you’ll get those family stories on paper. You ogle memoir books in the library and your local history museum. But when you sit down in front of that blank piece of paper or computer screen, a dozen urgent tasks popped up to drag you away, every time. Like . . . polishing the top of the fridge.

It’s oh-so-understandable and utterly common! But what do you do about it?! How do you go from “wannabe” memoir writer to “here’s my book”?

Even “bad” times make great memoir fodder!

Let’s start with what not to do:  Don’t kick yourself. Guilt won’t help you get words onto paper.

Here are three tips to try, starting right now, to help get your memoir launched and off to a running start:

(1)  Pull out your calendar.  That’s right — make a date with yourself and pencil “memoir time” in. Pick a day, pick a time, and block out half an hour. Just half an hour is enough to get you off to a rolling start! And here’s the magic kicker: before that first writing session ends, pencil in another date for your very next writing session. Things written down on a calendar tend to “happen,” especially when the commitment isn’t overwhelming (like half an hour). Before you know it, those memoir pages will start to add up!

(2)  Give yourself permission to start in the middle.  Some people had totally fascinating childhoods. But often our memories as a five-year-old aren’t the ones we most want to get down on paper.  Don’t get stuck thinking you have to write about your life chronologically. It’s okay to start with your most interesting stories — the ones you really want to write. You can always go back and fill in the backstory parts later.

Do you have happy memories of someone special?

(3)  Use prompts when you get stuck.  Talking with a friend, relative, or caring acquaintance about your life can often help get memories rolling again. It can also be helpful to hear what someone else wants to learn about. Ask that person to listen and ask you questions. Examples of helpful question “prompts” that can spur your writing on include:

When did you feel most special or proud?

Who was your favorite relative, and what is your happiest memory of them?

What was the first job for which you actually got paid?

What helped you survive the toughest times of your life?

I’d love to hear about your real-life struggles with memoir-writing! Leave me a comment below and I’ll try to include suggestions in future blog posts.

 

 

 

Six Tips for Memoir Writers

We all have great stories to tell . . .

We all have wonderful stories to tell! But memoir-writing can open up parts of yourself that you’ve long kept sealed. No wonder it’s so easy to put off!

If you have a memoir inside that’s struggling to get written, here are six tips to help get your life story down on paper:

1.  Start with the easy stuff. What could be easier? Jot down the basics: birth date and birth place; names of parents, grandparents, siblings. You might find stories popping up as you do this — if so, great! Make a list of those stories, and keep writing!

2.  Think happy. Who was your best friend in grade school? What were your favorite foods as a kid, and who prepared them? What music did you love? Happy memories are usually a great way to get words flowing!

3.  Go big-picture.  Step back for a second and think about world events that affected your life. Have you lived through wars, recessions, gas shortages? Did you watch the first man touch the moon, or the Twin Towers fall? What big-picture events happened in your lifetime, and how were you swept up in them?

A book grows by chapters. But you don’t have to write them in order.

4.  Remember decision-points. Everyone reaches a fork in the road at some time in his or her life. What tough decisions did you have to make, and how did you make them? (These stories can be some of the most fascinating parts of a memoir!)

5.  Go ahead, jump around. One of the biggest traps for memoir writers is the (totally understandable) effort to write chronologically. But memory doesn’t work that way. Go ahead, let your imagination jump around! Write whatever memory comes into your head and says “write me.” You can always sort your stories into better order later. That’s what word-processing (or a three-ring binder) is for!

6.  Welcome writers’ block. Yes, I really said that. Writers’ block happens to us all, and it’s one of the biggest gifts in our toolbox. When something is really, truly important but you haven’t quite processed it yet, your subconscious won’t let it out onto paper. Realize when you’ve hit one of those “big ones.” Be gentle, but keep coming back to it. Often if you can figure out exactly what the hang-up is (fear of failure? not knowing how to do something?), that fresh insight alone will re-open the writing door.

Like more helpful tips on writing a memoir? Get the LifeStory Workbook here!

A workbook can help keep you going.

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