Several times a year I give a talk on writing your memoir. I talk to small groups, ten or twenty people, often at the local library or senior center. It's never the same talk; I find myself emphasizing some points, depending on how the discussion goes.
I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. Out of twenty people, one or two have already started writing, or get started and follow up with me.
People always ask, "how do I get started?"
While you’re thinking about writing your memoir, and making notes on the backs of envelopes or starting Word docs here and there, find some time in your day to do this:
FIRST: read other people’s memoirs, at least half a dozen. You’re doing this to identify their voice.
SECOND: write every day. Journal. Pull out a notebook, grab a pen and write. No judgement, don’t show this writing to anyone. Twenty minutes a day, at least.
Doing these two things will set you on the right path. You’ll hear and identify other voices. Through consistent intuitive journaling you’ll finally start to hear and identify your own voice.
Once you’ve trained yourself to listen TO yourself and really get to know you, the inciting incident in your life will leap out at you. You won’t be able to avoid it. The words will start tumbling out, more and more. You’ll find it difficult to leave the house without your pen and notebook. Or with your tablet and keyboard. Because the words, rich and compelling, are bursting forth, demanding your attention.
There’s a lot more I can say about writing your memoir, all kinds of fine points to bring out, but if you’re not doing these two things I mentioned, you’re still daydreaming. Get off your keester and write! Don’t just read other people’s memoirs, and skip the journaling. Don’t worry about how it looks or sounds, just write. As my high school tennis coach reminded us, “It’s all in the follow-through.”
THEN, if you’re doing these two things and writing every day, set yourself a goal to attend a writer’s conference in six months or a year. Before you get to that writer’s conference, you’ll be prepared with a completed manuscript and a well-written pitch. More on that later.