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writing a chronology

Avoid Writing a Chronology: 4 Tips

Is writing a chronology of a life ever enough?

Dates and facts are necessary to life writing in the same way route numbers are necessary to maps. It’s not only that dates and facts provide interesting information but that they keep your readers on the right path as they make their way through your life story. So…

Writing a chronology is already a great contribution to your family story, but you can do so much more than just include the dates and facts. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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mining memoir depths

Is Writing a Memoir Important?

Let’s start with a basic question: is writing a memoir important?

Okay, why do we tell so many stories? Stories fascinate us all our lives. As children, we loved to be told fairy tales and to hear, time after time, the tales our parents told us about what we did and said when we were babies, as well as the stories about their own childhoods. As soon as we were old enough, we told stories about ourselves for our parents and for our friends. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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action in a memoir

Do you need action in a memoir?

Action in a memoir is essential—even if internalized!

Action in a memoir usually happens in the usual place—outside the memoir narrator. That is easy to grasp: “The boy ran by.”

When you use flashback scenes in which you remember someone and what they did way back then—these are not interiorized actions, these are memories of actual actions.

What can be less easy to grasp is that action in a memoir can be internal to the character, happening in the character’s mind. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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write your memoir

Your Memoir: an Arrest of Disorder

Each poem clarifies something. But then you’ve got to do it again. You can’t get ‘clarified’ to stay so: let you not think that. In a way, it’s like nothing more than blowing smoke rings. Making little poems encourages a man to see that there is shapeliness in the world. A poem is an arrest of disorder.

—Robert Frost, poet

Generating the arrest of disorder of life

When I read the quote above, I did not have to make much of a leap to sense that the words “An arrest of disorder” apply to the task you and I undertake when we write memoir. As the poet so is the memoir writer engaged in art making: the creation of meaning.

More than anything perhaps, we want an arrest of disorder. Disorder seems to be everywhere in life. And so, we take our raw material—the events of our lives and of the lives of the people who surround us—and endeavor to make meaning of it all. In short, we take up our mishmash of events, our disorder of memories, and attempt to make order—or, at the least, to create an arrest of disorder.

This rendering of order proves to be soothing. It is what we deeply wish to achieve in our lives—to have all the disparate and seemingly meaningless (or at least random) occurrences, wishes, pains somehow come together coherently, meaningfully. It all happened, we realize in an “A-ha!” moment, for some reason rather than by chance.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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what to write about in a memoir

What to Write About in a Memoir

“What to write about in a memoir?” is a basic question. The right answer will keep you writing and the wrong may lead you to believe that writing a memoir is too hard and not for you.

Write about something important to you

My answer to what to write about in a memoir is always to write about something important to you—not what you think is important to others.

Why are you writing? What is it that you hope to get from this effort of creating a memoir? You are about to devote a lot of time and energy to this task. Be sure it is for reasons that will keep you writing. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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journal writing for the memoir writer

Journal Writing for the Memoir Writer

Journal Writing for the Memoir Writer

Journal writing is an effective practice for the memoir writer. It is a spontaneous and generally free-flowing activity and so can be very helpful to you in loosening up both your thinking and your writing type (the two usually go together). Your journal is an opportunity to bypass the familiar rules that govern much of the other forms of writing—especially the essay form. In the journal, whatever you write and however you write is ok. You don’t have to worry about form. For many writers—especially for new writers who are still caught in “the way it’s supposed to be written,” this is a great freedom! [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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avoid cliches and stereotypes

Writing About Difficult Times in a Memoir

Writing about difficult times in a memoir requires some fortitude.

Recently, in a store, I looked up to see a woman enter, a woman I had not seen in a few years. She was someone I knew from 40 years ago and, as we live in the same area, I continue to meet regularly . We spoke briefly, superficially as one does on meeting someone one has not seen in a while, and soon she asked me, “Do you know what happened to Ronnie (not her son’s real name)?” Well, I hadn’t, but her tone made me fearful. I sensed I was about to learn something bad.

“He died this summer. Of an aortic embolism.”

Ronnie was 44 and in apparent good health and one day he died!

Mary  and John (not their real names) had two children. This son who had just died and a daughter in frail health who lives in Arizona for its dry climate. They have no grandchildren.

What I remember vividly about Mary and John is that [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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WritingGreatMemoryListsCOVERsm

Don’t Use A Writing Prompt Unless…

A writing prompt seems like a good idea—but is it really?

You are given a writing based on a writing prompt—let’s say, “Write about something physical you were afraid of as a child?”—and you instantly start to write about the water slide at Camp Algonquin you were sent to as an eight-year old. You are not sure why you are so moved to write this story but you do not hesitate. You write about standing at the top of the slide and about Martha Cocciardi in back of you on the ladder, shouting “Get going, Patty. I want to slide, too” and, at that moment,  you realized there was nothing to be done but to throw yourself at the mercy of fate and hope you survive to enter the fourth grade. You write with some humor and emotional distance suggesting “Oh, silly me! Oh, what little problems we have as children!” [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Don't let writer's blok stop you

Thinking About Memoir Writing

Our right thinking about memoir writing projects or our right talking about them can lead to success or failure. We can be very clever about our evasive tactics and disguise them as right thinking. Here are three examples that can pass for thoughtfulness rather than evasion.