Non-writer's guide to writing memoir

Teach yourself to become the memoir writer of your dreams!

  1. Tell yourself, "I can write my own life stories."
  2. Don’t worry about trying to be funny. Let your own humor come through as you write like you speak.
  3. Write about an memory that evokes a giggle, a shake of the head, or a sigh. Now, follow that emotion to what you were thinking either then or now.
  4. Write in the first person. Use “I” and the present tense to reflect on an event in the past as though you're currently in the middle of the experience.
  5. Don't wait for the perfect words to come. If you can touch type, close your eyes and let the thoughts flow as story—as though you're telling it orally to a friend—onto the page.
  6. Instead of thinking about writing a WHOLE memoir from start to finish, start by writing short essays.
  7. Put the English teacher in time out! Forget about style, grammar, spelling, and perfectly punctuated sentences. When you tell a story, you don’t think about form and function.
  8. Talk to yourself—out loud. Or, tell your stories to a friend over coffee (or wine) and capture it on a digital recorder.
  9. Instead of typing on a computer, try writing longhand with paper and pen or pencil. You connect with your story differently when you write by hand than when typing. It slows the brain down and you can draw memories out of some deep waters by taking your time.
  10. Use descriptive words; err on the side of too many adjectives rather than too few. Exercise: The smell of ________________ reminds me of ____________. Remember, this is a first of several drafts.
  11. Jump right into the drama of a moment. Often, day to day moments are the ones that capture our beliefs, our spirits and our characters most accurately. No need to set the scene or put it in context. Just let it fall right on out.
  12. Feeling stuck? Ask someone who knows you to suggest a topic from your life. Or, remember a time when you were literally stuck or frustrated and write about what happened while you got out of it (traffic jam; an awkward conversation; something in your teeth. Write about moment of drama in a day and a new story emerges.

Have fun! Your life is really interesting, valuable, and worth sharing with others who can gain insight, knowledge, values, lessons from you. Someone important will share a good cry or a good laugh commiserating with you from the pages of your memoir.