If you are one who wants to write your memoir and keep putting it off, I’m here to tell you, just start. If you want to take writing lessons first (the Senior Centers often have teachers,) well, just sign up. But if you still want to tell your story and don’t want to bother with lessons, here are a few tips:
Pretend you’re one of your own children or grandchildren or a close friend, and then ask questions. Write the answers just the way you’d answer them if you were talking to them face to face. Don’t worry about being correct with grammar or spelling or punctuation. That can come later. Just tell it from your heart exactly as you would if you were speaking to them. If the imagined questions get into areas you don’t want to discuss, just skip them a while, or altogether.
One rule I learned in classes over and over was this: Show it, don’t tell it. We’re not telling about the past. We’re making it present, real again by what people do and say. “He avoided my eyes and looked down at his shoes,” says it better than “He looked guilty.”
Now maybe it’s presumptuous for me to be giving tips to many of you who are more professional than I. This is for you who feel you need help but I have had numerous articles and essays published as well as one book. Memoirs do not have to be professionally written. They just need to tell your story straight from the heart.
As for me, I’m beginning to write my own story today so blogging may take a back seat. It starts out with a poem. The kind of poem Robert Frost wrote, sort of random rhyme but with a point. Here it is:
Before I sleep I always pray
and then I think of yesterday
when Mama would sing
and Daddy would stay
to tell us a story
of olden day.
More stories too he drew
right out of the blue.
Ones he’d make up
and, though we knew,
Daddy could make
them seem so true.
Stories never really put me to sleep
but gave me something
to ponder and keep when the lamp went out.
Later I’d give in to those old friends three,
Winken, Blinken and Nod, and we
would sail swiftly off to their wonderful starry sea.
Now, as that other “night” hovers
I take up my pen, (not my covers,)
so kids, grandies and all our progeny see
some leaves to this branch on our great family tree.
Shadows will melt into light from above
when stories all fade into new morning’s Love.
Joyce Darling Hahn Wethe Robertson