“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
An ordinary life becomes extraordinary when it jumps off the page!
Many people who decide to write an autobiography haven’t done much writing before, apart from papers in school or the occasional business correspondence. Don’t let the fear of “not being good enough” get in your way. You may want to craft your life story just for close friends and family to read. There’s no need to worry about perfection. The key is to capture your stories in your own voice for this special audience—and perhaps future generations—to appreciate. Of course, you also can aim your story for a broader audience. We have writers on staff to help you professionalize your work. Just ask!
In order to help you on this journey, Write My Memoirs has assembled some time-tested writing hints. These are techniques employed by amateurs and professional writers alike. We’ve included ideas for how to get started, break through writer’s block and make writing come to you more naturally.
Look at your memoir as a project that may take you several weeks or months. Different people respond to different types of motivation. Although we believe it’s not a good idea to pressure yourself to write a certain amount each day, it is important that you write something—whether it’s an anecdote, a short memory or a full chapter—on a regular basis. Start with a simple topic that you know very well, such as one incident, person or period of time, and that should limit your anxiety.
Make sure your desk, chair and lighting provide a comfortable writing experience. You need to be comfortable for the memories to flow. Congratulations – you’re committed! You’re on your way!
Listed below are some suggestions to assist you in getting started with your memoir.
I was born on (insert date), the (1st, 2nd, 3rd) child of (# of siblings).
The world at that time was (at war, at peace; times were booming, in recession).
Our family lived in____________, which was a (middle class, affluent) neighborhood.
My earliest memories are of______________________.
I attended _____________ elementary school and remember_________.
My days at school were (happy, sad, tumultuous, difficult). I was a (good, average, poor, excellent) student, active in__________. I had (many, few) friends.
My family moved to this country in _____________.
My mother was a (adjective) woman, my father was a (adjective) man. They spent (a lot of time, no time) with us growing up. We were a (close, distant) family.
Many people have trouble recalling their early youth. What might be useful is describing your parents. How would you describe your mother and father? You may remember the birth of a younger sibling, an illness in the family or the move to a new home. Keep in mind that you don’t have to write your story chronologically. You may find it easier to come back to this section after you’ve written about more recent events.
Remember that friendships were formed at this time, learning skills were developed and for many it was a fun time. Certain teachers may have influenced you positively, and some may have been tyrants. How did it feel that first day?
High school, for many, opened new doors. Learning was raised to a new level with greater demands. There were academic clubs to be part of, social clubs and athletic teams. You may have started dating. Is this when you first fell in love? Friendships were formed that may have lasted to the present. You could write a whole story about your favorite music of the time.
Did you continue your education after high school? This period in most lives was very critical. Horizons were opened. For many it was a time to meet students with different backgrounds and from other parts of the country or the world. There may have been fraternities, sororities or social clubs. Did you meet your spouse at this time?
Our experience has been that veterans’ military service is a critical piece of their autobiography. Our writers who have served tend to remember a lot of detail about this time in their lives. You are not alone if you spend several chapters on your war or peacetime experiences serving away from home.
Do you remember your first job interview? What was your first job? Were there any friendships made through work that have continued? Why did you leave the job?
Throughout your memoir you’ll be thinking about people who have impacted your life. Family members, of course, will be key figures. An interview can be helpful! If the person you’d like to write about no longer is alive, it may be worth your time to interview one of the person’s surviving relatives. Then picture where you were when you were in the person’s presence, what you talked about and the various experiences you shared. This can form the core of each chapter in your memoir.
A chapter can cover anything from one specific story or person to an entire era of your life. You can describe all of your military experience, for example, in just one chapter or divide it into significant events and devote a chapter to each of those.