We regularly receive email from people who want to write their memoirs but can’t get started. We suggest beginning with just one limited episode; once you’ve described that, you may be able to go on to the next. I think it’s easier than starting at the beginning of your life and going chronologically. But no matter what order you follow, you may find it helpful to have an outline. Breaking down your life into small segments will eventually shape your life’s larger themes. That’s where old, reliable Wikipedia comes in.
Look up your favorite celebrity or historical figure on Wikipedia.org, and you’ll see that the biographical information follows an outline that appears along with the text. Read a few of them, and perhaps you’ll get into the swing of it enough to craft an outline for your own life.
For example, I looked up Benjamin Franklin, who lived a long and varied life. One category in his biography is Inventions and scientific inquiries. Another, Public life, is broken down into: Europe years; Hutchinson letters; Coming of Revolution; Declaration of Independence; Postmaster; Ambassador to France: 1776–1785; Constitutional Convention; and President of Pennsylvania. As you can see, there’s no rule about how all of that is worded; it’s kind of a hodgepodge. If you can approach your own time line the same way—just write down a couple of words that trigger your memory about each major aspect, period or episode in your life, you’ll have made a great start to your autobiography.