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writing your memoir

Writing Your Memoir One Story at a Time—It Adds Up

Make Writing Your Memoir Less Daunting

Writing your memoir does not have to be an intimidating task. Envisioning your autobiography as a series of stories makes the sizable task of writing the stories of a lifetime tolerable and ultimately enjoyable. Lifestories, written singly just as they are told, one by one, add up—sometimes effortlessly—to a memoir.

Whenever I have written a book, I have written it several pages at a time. Were I to ask a beginning writer, “can you produce a 140-page story for me?” most would blanch and then protest, “I can’t write that much!” When I ask people if they can write a 3-, 4-, 5- or even 7-page story, most will answer, “Sure I can do that.” [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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family stories

Mine Your Family Stories

There is a rich lode of stories that you can tap into quickly both for their historical content and for what they tell you about how members of your family wanted their young to be. These are “family stories.” [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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writing a first draft

Writing a First Draft: Why They’re Called “First”

When you are writing a first draft: nothing can rightly be called a first unless there is a second. First grade implies second grade; first class implies second class; first book implies (we hope) second book, a first draft implies a second draft.

That is why first drafts are called first drafts. A writer must expect to write a second draft, and a third even. No one can sit down and churn out countless pages of prose that don’t need rewriting. Jack Kerouac claimed he did it with On the Road, but we know now that he was stretching the truth. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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The Memoir Network

3 Benefits of Keeping a Journal

Journal Keeping Benefits

When keeping a journal—regular (even daily), some people feel a release of energy they don’t have in other writing forms. Because of that, journal keeping can be an important developmental experience for you both as a person and as a writer. Because the journal is private by definition, you can write in it without fear of how an audience might react. No one will ever see it. Not ever—unless you want them to!

Your journal is a kind of writing laboratory. Scientists use a laboratory to conduct experiments. They check what results from adding this to that, from changing relationships and quantities and sequences. Sometimes when the results are interesting and prove worth pursuing, they continue conducting experiments in similar areas, pairing these findings with those from other experiments.

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

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Memoir Network ebooks

The Difference between a Memoir and an Autobiography

The difference between a memoir and an autobiography can be rather minimal—or they can be fairly large. “So what is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography?” you may persist in asking as so many people do. Practically speaking, for most people, there is no difference. In common speech, the terms are interchangeable. But […]

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How to Make Writing Easier

Why is writing so hard? Why does what you want to write become so difficult the moment you sit down to write? Where are the words you need to convey the excitement or the dread or the anticipation. You are shocked to realize that what appears on the computer screen has no pizzazz! This is […]

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. 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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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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excuses for not writing

Three Excuses for not Writing Your Memoir Today

Excuses for not writing

Most of us use a certain number of excuses for not writing when we want to avoid our memoir projects. In this post, I debunk a few that seem to be everyone’s favorites.

1. I don’t feel like writing my memoir today.

Does the plumber always feel like laying out a new bathroom? Or, is the parent always feeling like getting up in the middle of the night to see what the child needs?

There are many things we do in our lives because they are the natural consequences of a decision we have previously taken. Why should writing an autobiography be different? Why should you write your story only when you feel like it? A better solution would be to write according to a schedule. At eight, the plumber goes to work at plumbing. At your scheduled time, you get to work at your life story writing. Why should that be so hard to accept?

You don’t feel like writing today? Write. You feel like writing? Write. Fidelity today to your commitment is the best response to get your memoir written.

2. I am not well today.

Unless you are sick enough to stay in bed or are suffering from an acute pain such as a tooth ache, you would do well to apply the same thinking as in #1 rather than give in to this second of the excuses for not writing One can do much memoir writing even when one is “under the weather.”

Your child is crying and you don’t feel well? You get up and take care of your child. If your writing is important to you, you get on with the writing. You don’t feel well today? Write. You feel well? Write.

3. I don’t have anything to say.

This third of the excuses for not writing is like “I don’t know what to say” but worse! You are not writing essays, not philosophy. You are creating portraits of a world that is no more. You are celebrating the past. Don’t worry about having something to say. That’s “telling” and not “showing.” Just create portraits and scenes that show where you have been. That is already enough. Life story writing is not about thinking. Don’t worry about having something to say. Just show your past! You don’t feel you have anything to say today? Write. You feel you have something to say? Write.

Excuses, Excuses

See through the excuses for not writing that will jeopardize your success at writing your memoir. We are all too prone to making excuses. Writing autobiography ought to be a pleasure. Rather than indulge in discomfort-producing excuse talk, wouldn’t you really be better off to either write or retire all the feel-good-but-do-nothing talk about writing? Get the support of a writing buddy to help you through these excuses or try coaching.

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

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The Photos You Don’t Have / How to Journal Without The Photos

Notice Gaps In Your Collection of Photos?

As you organize your photos for your albums, you notice gaps in what you photographed–in other words, the photos you don’t have. You remember events that you didn’t even photograph at all– perhaps you weren’t there or perhaps you were too busy to take photos.

You can ask around to find if anyone took photos you might have copies of. And what if no one has photos to record a time or a person in your life that you simply must memorialize? What to do? [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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