If you are having trouble starting your memoir, don’t fret. You don’t have to start at the beginning–where you were born, who your parents were, etc. Instead, your memoir can start at any point in time.
What I find works best is just beginning to tell stories about your life. Put these vignettes on paper, and after a while, the form of your memoir will begin to take shape. Sometimes, unconsciously, we shape our memoirs by the stories we choose to share as vignettes.
One way to launch your writing is by using prompts. I use prompts for different times and aspects of life, such as about childhood or the teen years, or the things that challenged or frightened you.
Another great source of stories are reflections about your family. Here are some prompts to get you started:
- Who was the power on the throne in your family? Why? And did he or she wield that power wisely and with love, or was it used to crush and control others? Or was power shared?
- Were you aware of money matters in your childhood, or did your parents shield you from money concerns? Would you rather have had such topics handled differently in your family?
- Do you feel like someone in your family was your greatest guide or mentor? If not a family member, who would you say had the most influence on your growing years?
- Describe a time when your mother or father or other special adult spent time with you, either an individual event or an ongoing interaction.
- What is one of your favorite memories from childhood?
- What is one of your worst memories from childhood?
- What is one of your favorite memories from your teen years?
- What is one of your worst memories from your teen years?
- What pet(s) did you have? Tell a story about your pet.
- Who was your best friend when you were growing up? Tell a story about that friend.
- If you had siblings, do you have a story or two about those siblings?
- What was a strong family trait in your home when you were growing up?
- In your family who listened to you the most?
- Did you have a family tradition that you liked or disliked? Why?
Prompts such as these will lead you to other ideas, new avenues to follow in your writing. It’s a good idea to keep track of your own prompt ideas as you follow these. Keep a piece of paper at hand every day to write down new thoughts and prompts.