Limiting the Focus of Your Memoir

Although I think it’s fine to use the words “memoir” and “autobiography” interchangeably, traditionally a memoir traces only a segment of your life, not your entire life the way an autobiography does. As I wrap up my time at the 2019 National Senior Games, which I hope you’ve been following on Instagram @writemymemoirs (also will soon post some on the Write My Memoirs page on Facebook), I’m thinking about all of the great stories these older athletes have to tell. When you have a defining hobby like sports competition, you can craft a memoir just around that.

The facts are handy—in the case of the Senior Games, the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) keeps all of the results online. U.S. Track and Field (USTAF), another sports competition organization, does the same. At this year’s Senior Games, there also are videos posted on YouTube by ProView Networks. The athletes tend to bring family members who take lots of pictures. Put it all together, and much of the research for a memoir like this is already at the author’s fingertips. To fill in the words, you go back into your memories of each medal you won, every city in which you competed, all of the friends you made and the inspiration you felt. I think the writing comes easier and is more enjoyable than with other types of memoirs that may require recalling painful incidents and challenges to overcome.

So think about some lifelong or recently discovered activity that has made a difference in your life. It might be something that you take for granted. Maybe everyone tells you what a great cook you are. You can build a memoir around food, family meals and the joy that brings you. Perhaps you have a specific hobby like photography, birdwatching or attending estate or “garage” sales. You may be in a bowling league that has met weekly for several decades, or you’ve participated in various book clubs over the years. This type of limited-topic memoir can be very interesting both to your family and to people engaged in a similar activity. It also can inspire other people to get involved with something they can love as much as you love yours. As always, we would love to help you bring your memoir to life! Email me at