Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Lessons for Athletes Who Want to Write Memoirs—And Vice Versa

Far view of a track meet
This week in July 2023, the National Senior Games are taking place in Pittsburgh, and I’m competing in track and field. If you’re over 50 and enjoy athletic competition in any sport, check out Senior Games. It’s fun. But that’s another topic for another time, or here’s a link to read a piece I wrote about a previous Nationals event. But what you all want to do is write memoirs.

We All Have Our Gifts

In regular life, I’m a writer, editor and memoir coach. I’m good at all three. My writing comes naturally, so that part’s a gift. I learned to edit by going to graduate school in journalism, so that’s my training. When I kind of accidentally became owner of Write My Memoirs, I taught myself little by little how to coach memoir authors, so that expertise comes from trial and error, consulting with colleagues and other types of experience.
In athletic competition, I run, jump and throw. I’m bad at all three. I was never an athlete of any sort. I can swim and I played tennis as a teen, but I was never good enough to compete in any sport. Track and field is way out of my wheelhouse. Despite that, in middle age I started running for exercise—just two miles most days. So when my husband began competing in Senior Games, I got tired of being a spectator and decided I’d enter some of the running races. Eventually I added javelin and two jump events.
The best I can say for myself is that I don’t always come in last. Sometimes I do. In this group of exceptional senior athletes, I am simply not very good. I don’t have a gift the way I do with writing, but I don’t mind. I can train and practice and teach myself.
If you’re feeling that, as a writer, you’re simply not very good, I can relate because of what I do that I feel inadequate about. But you know what we say in Senior Games? Even when you land in last place, you beat all the people sitting at home on the couch. Try thinking in those terms when you write your memoir. You’re doing something a lot of people want to do but never get past page one.
Here are a few ways I can align your desire to write with my desire to compete in track and field.

Lessons from Comparing Athletic Competition to Writing a Memoir

  1. Like my triple jump, your writing is something you can improve. I watched videos and read information to figure out the steps for the triple jump. I knew that it wasn’t a popular event, which is how I came in seventh place in my age category in this year’s Nationals! Okay, that also was last place, but I got a ribbon. I know it seems as if everyone is writing a memoir, but in terms of percentage of the population, you are a rare bird if you take your memoir the whole way to publication. Even if you don’t write the best memoir ever published, you still get a ribbon! You’ll be an author. You’ll have a book to hand out to friends and family. It’s huge.
  2. Just as I don’t enjoy running, you don’t have to enjoy writing in order to write a memoir. I run as part of my general fitness program, not because I attain a “runner’s high” or whatever dedicated runners seem to feel. You can look at your memoir as something you’re doing for yourself—not the part of yourself that wants to spend time doing something enjoyable, but the part of yourself that wants a targeted result. You want to produce your memoir. To realize that goal, you have to sit down and write it, or at least hire someone to take your information and write it for you.
  3. In competition, experts tell us all to just compete against yourself. Go at your own pace. Don’t burn out. So I run as much as I can as long as I can get myself to do it. That comes to two miles at least three times a week. If it rains or something unexpected comes up in my schedule, I wait until the next day. Writing is not that different. You don’t have to finish your memoir within one year or commit to a writing regimen of at least 30 minutes a day or set up an ideal writing environment. You know when you’re slacking, so at that point pick up the pace. Just don’t let it go completely. As with running, you keep putting one foot in front of the next, and sooner or later you get to the finish line.
  4. I’m the only “me” there is. Each of us is unique. There are so many aspects to being a person, and we differ in all of them, from the way our bodies are built to the way we think to the way our lives have progressed. My challenges in competing are different from other athletes’ challenges. Some have it easier, but many have it harder. I’m lucky to be able to run at all. Because you’re unique, your memoir will be special. If your story were already out there, you wouldn’t have to write it. Value the way you approach a project like memoir writing in your own way. Appreciate that your unique life will make an interesting narrative.

Your Memoir is Important

This isn’t a zero-sum game. I can compete alongside athletes much better than I am, with no delusion that I might win, and still be valuable as a participant in Senior Games. And you can offer a memoir that will add to the literature of what it’s like to live a particular life.

Like this article?


Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for other websites’ commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. If you’d like to talk about what’s right for you, schedule a call. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!