So you want to write your memoir but don’t know where to start.
One: Be patient with yourself.
Life is a journey some memories are easier to recall than others. Start with those that come easily and get them down on paper. One thought will lead to another and before you know it you will be remembering all kinds of interesting events and perhaps some not so much so.
Two: sometimes memory is like smoke in a bottle difficult to capture and unpredictable. You may remember unimportant events and forget your first-born’s birthday, don’t worry. Facts can be found in records, talking with each generation of your family will prove to be a gold mine of information. Photographs are like cattle prods for the memory enjoy reliving the events captured and frozen in time.
Three: Whatever comes to mind write it down. Record it or make a video. However dumb stupid or unimportant you may think it is just secure it. Ultimately you will find your “voice” and the words will come together.
Four: You can also hire a ghostwriter to interview you and write your memoir for you. You can find ghostwriters on the Internet. By word of mouth or reccomendation. Ghost writers charge by the hour. You should still hire a professional to edit the entire manuscript before publishing for the whole world to see.
Five: Google is your friend. Use the Internet to help with your research. There are experts who can find information about your family that you may not be aware of. Ancestor.com is one of these companies. Or go to Ancestor search for a menu of sites, which will prove to be invaluable. You never know you might be related to the Queen of England or Jack the ripper! In either case it is your choice to acknowledge your forbears or not.
Six: Don’t let the inner critical voice derail your enthusiasm. Thoughts like “I’m not a writer” “I’m just and ordinary person” or who wants’ to hear about me?” need to be turned off. You would not be so unkind as to be insulting and dismissive of a friend so be as caring of your own sensibilities as you would of theirs.
Seven: Feelings and emotions are more important than facts so don’t worry if you can’t remember what year you visited the Grand Canyon just relive the event and tell the story about how you were talked into riding a donkey down the side of the majestic canyon and how terrified you felt. Describe the riot of colors, the clear cool air and the timeless silence and serenity of nature. Remember the relief you felt when you had both feet safely planted on the ground.
Eight: When you are writing and remembering, keep things in perspective. Don’t indulge in a pity party. No one will give a rats tail (close enough) that grandma forever turned you off green leafy vegetables by force-feeding you spinach. Rather your readers will rejoice in your warm recollections of the mouth-watering aromas and delicious holiday feasts prepared by her and the cultural traditions she taught you to carry on and pass down.
On the other hand first and sometimes second hand stories of suffering at the hands of powerful and vicious enemies of mankind like Nazi Germany or natural disasters could and should be told as they carry with them historical and sometimes moral significance. Apart from these catastrophic events there are times when you feel abused. Try to be kind to those whom you feel wronged you. Sometimes hindsight can indeed be 20/20 and perhaps you can find some reason for the other person’s behavior that would shed a more kindly light. Compassion always takes the high road.
Nine: Writing your story can be frustrating you will find that you must write and rewrite to get the essence of the story. Every writer finds this to be the case don’t get discouraged. Just think of the gift you are giving to your children and grand children. Wouldn’t you be thrilled to have a first person record of the grandfather or grand mother who sailed from his or her native land to create the family of which you are now the beneficiary? Wouldn’t it be amusing to learn that great uncle Joe hunted bears but was afraid of mice? How about the miserly aunt who lived in poverty but died a millionaire? From whom did your inherit your artistic flair, which of the ancestors donated the blue eyes and black hair? Who was the original owner of the Civil war sword that hangs above the mantle and what was his story? What fun to find out!
Ten: At this point just tell your story. Don’t worry about offending great aunt Tilley, getting something wrong or being sued. You can change everything at a later date. You will most likely consult a lawyer to check these issues for you. Before publishing you will have to have your manuscript edited by a professional. Do not skip this step even if you have a PhD in English or know someone who has, you need a professional editor with a respectable reputation. Writing can be fraught with imagined pitfalls one of which is lack of formal education. If thoughts and remembrances of red lined essays the conviction that you can’t spell or your grasp of punctuation leaves you mystified all contrive to make writing a daunting undertaking. Never fear there is writing soft wear to help with those issues. If the computer is your idea of an instrument of torture there are those who will be glad to turn your notes and stories into a readable manuscript.
Writing is fun it is a venue for your personal story your memoir is a companionable undertaking reuniting you with the friends and family with whom you have shared your journey as you walk and talk with them once more .You will hear their voices loud and clear however you get to have the last word! If your dream is to be published that is a whole other undertaking. One you can now attain I would be happy to help you achieve that goal.
Wishing everyone happy writing.