Often, when nonfiction is taught or studied, memoir and the personal essay are placed apart, as separate genres, but the truth is that these two strands have considerable overlap. In theory, one might write memoir and not essay; if, for instance, all that you did was re-create previous events from memory, with absolutely no embellishment or reflection. In practice, however, writers almost never do this. They re-create the past and then reflect on what they have learned, or haven’t learned, about what now makes sense or what continues to be a mystery.
Why not write your memoir? Your life story – told by you while
you are still around - will be of interest and value to you and your
family. Here are ten tips.
1. Get Started
With any writing, the scariest part is often the blank piece of paper at the beginning. But there is no better way to begin than by just getting started.
2. See Your Life in Stories
Visualizing your life as a collection of stories can be a way of visualizing your writing as well.
3. Value the Writing Process
The writing process itself will bring your stories to life in your memory and then be ready to record.
4. Don't Worry about Form
Get your ideas down on paper, the style can be improved later.
5. Organize by Timeline or Theme
Write your ideas either in a chronological timeline, or by theme. The important thing is to get them onto the page.
6. Write for Yourself, not for Publication
For most people, you will write only for yourself, and, additionally, for your family and friends. Getting published is very difficult. After you have written something and if it appears to have merit, however, you could investigate publication. Options include self-publication, either in print (which can be costly), or on the Internet (which can be free or quite inexpensive).
7. Write an Hour a Day
Writing regularly can be an excellent approach, but make sure it is actually one hour each day. You can't cheat by saving it up and cramming a week's worth on the weekend.
8. Decide About Controversial Parts
What if you have written something and you can't decide if it is too controversial to include? Leave your writing for a couple of weeks. When you return to it, it will be more obvious what you should do: keep it the way it is, change it, or omit the offending part altogether.
9. Look for Help
There are resources in the community - such as a memoir or creative writing workshop, a good friend, or a professional - that can be of help along the way.
10. Edit and Proofread
Come back to your writing at another time and you will see ways to improve it by editing. Look at it yet again with a proofreader's eye and you will likely spot errors. Or have a friend or professional take a look at your work.