What makes a memory?

People often come to Write My Memoirs thinking they need to write about the most meaningful, most dramatic or most life-changing moments in their life’s story, such as a major illness, a loss, immigration to a new country or a professional high point. But there are hundreds of moments in every life worth capturing in a memoir or autobiography. They are the ordinary activities of life, made fascinating by the passage of time and the way the world changes around us.

How you got to school or what you paid for coffee and a doughnut as a young person might not have seemed worth noting at the time, but today your grandchildren have a very different story to tell! The contrast between how you grew up and their lives today is really quite interesting. And imagine how those contrasts will increase in another generation! These are the sorts of details that bring a memoir to life and make it relevant to younger generations of readers. So don’t feel as if every chapter in your life’s story needs to be monumental – it just needs to be full of little stories and reminiscences that speak about you and the times you lived in.

Writers often need a “spark” to begin their journey down memory lane. Sometimes answering a simple question can get you thinking about a certain period in your life, and suddenly lots of memories you hadn’t thought of in ages are right at your fingertips. Now is the time to write them down. There’s no need to write a fully formed “chapter” right now – just jot down a few notes to store the memory for now. Fleshing out the chapter can come later.

Here are some questions to get your writing juices flowing. Read through the list, and if a question ignites a memory, take a note. Then keep reading and answering. We know you will end up with a list of many, many stories to tell. You’ll be writing a personal memoir before you know it!