How to write memoir

I have written a memoir. The process was long, surprisingly painful and full of the steepest learning curves imaginable.

But through a period of about seven years, I did realise that, though writing memoir is not necessarily straightforward, there are things to bear in mind. We might start by deciding, first, what we do not need, when embarking on writing our memoir.

We do not need:-

  • Any qualification in literature, creative writing or equivalent.
  • A law degree or formal adult education to fend off critics or lawsuits.
  • To conduct embarrassing interviews with friends and family.

For now, here is a glimpse of what you might find helpful to write memoir

  • A work ethic or method to get you started
  • A willingness to make time
  • An desire to continue, bordering on the obsessive
  • Willingness to listen
  • Patience to undertake literally hundreds of rewrites
  • The willingness to change your understanding when casual conversations with family reveal that you may have got something wrong
  • A willingness to come clean and be honest
  • Playful optimism and the ability to laugh when it all gets too much and you feel like throwing in the towel.

This is a light-hearted list, incomplete and perhaps even a bit contentious. We each have our own list of what we need. What’s missing? Ah yes, of course.

  • The desire to write our story
  • Something to write about.

If we start writing, and realise that our work is, well, boring, we can do several things we can do with

We can

  • throw out what we have written and start again. Given that, after a million re-writes, nothing in your original MS will remain, this is a perfectly feasible option.
  • Go out and live an interesting life, and then come back and write about it. We might be twenty years too early.

Thanks so much for reading.


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