As a trainer and public speaker, I work with many different people from many different points of life. I truly love how telling my story helps others feel safe enough to speak-out about their own past traumatic experiences. I have spent hours of just listening to other men and women share their pain and heartaches of their childhood, violence in the home and how they overcame. There are so many strong and amazing people in this world. Sometimes we laugh, and, a lot of times, we cry. Almost inevitably, I hear, “I have always wanted to write my story down, but I don’t know where to start.”
Well, I can definitely relate to that! So now, I dedicate this page to all of those whom have wondered that same perplexing question. Everyone has a story to tell; and writing is an amazing healer. Find the catalyst that fits your style best; and start your healing-sharing-journey today.
10 Steps to Write a Memoir
1. Determine Why
Writing a memoir can be a daunting project. The clearer you are about why you are doing it, the more motivation you will have to complete it. Your reasons for writing a memoir may be to:
Leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren
Leave a legacy for you business or organization
Share wisdom with others who are going through what you went through
Heal or understand yourself
The reasons for writing a memoir are vast and varied. Knowing your own purpose and reasons will give you emotional fuel to finish your memoir over time.
2. Choose a Time Period
Determine which time of your life you want to write about. A timeline can bookend the beginning and ending of your story. These timelines might encompass:
Your childhood years
Your years living in a certain city
Your time pursuing a certain goal and its attainment
Time spent with a spouse or other loved one
Your spiritual journey
An overseas adventure
3. Draw a Timeline
Once you have chosen a time period, you can determine the major events that took place on a timeline. You can literally draw out a long horizontal timeline and mark half-inch tabs along the timeline. Then, label each tab for each year, month or day, depending on the length of your total timeline.
For example, your timeline might look like this:
I------I------I------I------I------I------I------I------I----- 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 and so on.
4. Mark Major Life Events
Mark your timeline with the major events that happened during that period.
I-------I-------I--------I--------I-------I----------- 1955 1956 1960 1961 1962 1963 Met Fred Got married Tiffany born Fred went to war Hank born Fred killed ...
Major life events can be birth, graduation, the first job, arriving in a city, falling in love, meeting a nemesis, getting married, starting a business, meeting a mentor, losing a job, having children, arriving in a new country, getting divorced, having an illness, meeting a spiritual teacher, winning an award, getting remarried.
This provides a chronological structure for your memoir.
5. Find the Emotional Turning Points
On your timeline, you can start to see the emotional turning points of your life.
I------I------I-------I------I------I----------- 1955 1956 1960 1961 1962 1963 Met Fred Got married Tiffany born Fred went to war Hank born Fred killed ... Fell in love Committed to love Experienced unconditional love Fear about future Uncertainty Grief and determination to create good life for kids
Another way to do this is to use a blank notebook and label one page for each year of your life. Fill in the major life events, emotional turning points and historical events of each year. Use that journal as a chronological record of your life from which to write your memoir.
6. Find a Theme
It has been said that the universe of stories comprises only two themes: love and change. All stories fall under these two categories. Every story, song, movie, script, play or tale is a unique and individual expression of love or change, or both. What is your story about? What is the main theme? What is the main lesson you have learned from your experiences?
Your theme may be:
Love never dies
Never give up
Keep going for your dreams
You can heal your life
Small things are beautiful
You do not have to know the theme to begin writing your memoir. Often, it will emerge in the writing itself. But at some point, you will want to choose the main theme of your memoir and organize the details of the story around this theme. A good ghostwriter can help you recognize the themes of your life and draw out details to support the theme. A theme transforms your memoir from a collection of events to a compelling story that others will want to keep reading.
7. Write Your Memoir
Start writing. You can commit to a certain length of time each day. It might be just 10 minutes. Or maybe 30 minutes. It doesn’t matter. You can also commit to a certain number of pages or words each day. It can be one page. Or maybe 500 words. It also doesn’t matter. Once the mind knows it is going to write, it will automatically come up with more things for you to write about. Keep writing.
8. Don’t Write Your Memoir
You actually don’t have to write a word to create a memoir. You can tell your stories to a:
Digital recorders can download your conversation directly into the computer. Speaking software recognizes your voice and turns your words into text. And a video camera captures your image while you speak. You can also find a ghostwriter. A ghostwriter can transcribe your recordings, organize, write and edit your book. All this saves you time and energy.
9. Think of Your Life as a Hero’s Journey
Many great classics follow the structure of the Hero’s Journey. This is the journey of a person from innocence to wisdom, self-doubt to self-knowing, that is born of tests and trials during an adventure. Following the formula for a hero’s journey gives your memoir a structure to work from.
10. Find a Coach
It’s easy to give up. When we are alone, we can listen to our negative thoughts more than our positive thoughts. It’s not always easy to be our own coach. When taking on a memoir writing project, you can find a coach by:
taking a memoir writing class
finding a writing consultant
hiring a ghostwriter
A good writing coach will keep you motivated and moving. When you are stuck or resistant, a good coach will offer solutions and guide you through the rough patches, so you keep going. You don’t have to do it alone.
If you are writing a poem because you want to capture a feeling that you experienced, then you don’t need these tips. Just write whatever feels right. Only you experienced the feeling that you want to express, so only you will know whether your poem succeeds. If, however, your goal is to communicate with a reader — drawing on the established conventions of a literary genre (conventions that will be familiar to the experienced reader) to generate an emotional response in your reader — then simply writing what feels right to you won’t be enough.