Write your memoir in 2021: Resources to get it done

Congratulations! It’s January 1st and your New Year’s resolution is to finally start working on your memoir. Or maybe you plan to rewrite your first draft or restructure your memoir manuscript to submit to a publisher.

I know from experience how hard it is to write about yourself. It’s fun to begin with but then it gets excruciating and you have to eat heaps of ice-cream to make yourself feel better.

Luckily there are lots of resources out there to make writing your memoir easier and my New Year’s resolution for 2021 is to collate them all here, in a series of blog posts.

In the nine years I spent crafting my journal entries into a manuscript draft I tried every memoir writing technical guide, audiobook, podcast and course I could get my hands on.

I even accidentally signed up to a screenwriting course because I misread the title before I paid the non-refundable course fee. It turned out to be one of the most useful courses ever and I will tell you all about it, and many other resources in this blog series.

It will be my pleasure to curate the best memoir resources for you here, to save you time researching them, so you can get on with the important job of telling your story.

WRITING RESOURCE NUMBER 1: Writing prompts to get you started.   

Getting started can be the hardest part. So without further ado:

Step 1: Create a writing nook. You’ll need somewhere you won’t be interrupted for 25 minutes at least.

I find the best technique for creating a writing nook is to go to your bedroom, close the door and find the chair you leave clothes on before you put them back in the wardrobe. Now, with an empty laundry basket nearby, scoop all the clothes from the chair into the basket. It’s best to do this in one arm load, or maybe two if the socks and jocks keep falling out.

Now, sitting in the chair, use your foot to manouvre the basket until it’s out of line of sight. If that’s not possible, manouvring the chair until your back is to the washing also works. And now you have a writing nook!

This strategy can be adapted to create a writing nook on a spare bed covered in clean washing too. Simply push the washing to one side of the bed, then fold the doona or sheet over it. The washing will be out of view and you’re ready to write

Special Instructions for this technique:

  1. Don’t even think about a quick peek on instagram for inspiration about beautiful writer’s nooks because before you know it you’ll have wasted precious writing time googling delivery charges for a faux-scandi minimalist writing desk and hanging pot plant holder.
  • Under no circumstances are you to fold and sort the clothes in the washing basket or spare bed! Not until you’ve exhausted your writing energy for the day. Your new year’s resolution to write your memoir takes precedence over your resolution to keep a tidy house. Creative energy is finite and uninterrupted time to write is precious as gold. You can sort the socks but you can’t connect with your inner wisdom while yelling at the kids/partner/housemates/pets to get in the bath/take out the rubbish/feed the kombucha scoby/stop drinking from the toilet.

Step 2: Find a pen.

I don’t mean go to the stationary store and spend ages at the pen section deciding wether gel pens or ballpoints flow better for literary mastery, because I know that’s what crossed your mind. Go and get a pen from the junk drawer. The one you took home from the tedious work conference where you spent every session daydreaming about quitting your day job. Trial a quick scribble. Does it work? Yes? Go to step 3.

Step 3:  Select a notepad.

It’s a public holiday today so you can’t waste any time at the expensive stationary shop choosing between the A4 with inspirational picture or the A5 with the embossed motivational quote. You can do that later. Right now, go and find anything with blank pages and/or lines. Find that notebook you already started making notes about your tax in, or the high-school English notebook with a blank few pages left that you’ve been meaning to declutter since 1994. Or tear out some pages from your kid’s English notebook and lean on that expensive hardcover recipe book you’ve never used and now won’t have time to. Because you’ll be too busy writing.   

Step 3: Start writing.

It will be hard to write for 25 minutes without interruption so I’ve collated some memoir writing prompts for you. The goal is to write whatever comes into your head, for the next 25 minutes. Special instructions:

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  2. Start writing and don’t stop.
  3. No googling “techniques for writing for 25 minutes without stopping” (I’ll cover that in a later blog post).
  4. Select one or more of these writing prompts[1]
    • My favorite childhood toy was…
    • My favorite childhood game was…
    • The best movie I ever saw as a kid was…
    • I don’t do it much but I enjoy…
    • As a kid, I dreamed of being…
    • For years, I have missed and wondered about…
    • I have a loyal friend in…
    • One thing I like about my hometown is…
    • When the timer goes off, you can stop. Repeat for as many more 25 minute blocks as you feel up to.

Step 4: Feel smug.

You did it! You started writing your memoir. Take that, 2020 New Year’s Resolution! Look how good 2021’s resolution is shaping up to be already.    

Stay tuned for my next blog post, where I’ll talk about my favourite writing resource for building up your writing momentum.


[1] Taken from the fabulous book: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.

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