Welcome to How to Keep Writing Wednesdays, where you'll find a boost of encouragement to help you keep the words flowing.

Writing Memoir

Interested in writing memoir, but don’t know where to start? Begin by considering theme.

Memoir themes range from childhood to coming-of-age stories, travel, family histories, love, loss, spirituality, addiction, and more. Choosing a theme helps you narrow the focus of your writing.

Get as specific as you can. You can start from a theme as broad as your childhood and drill down to a specific one, like your first pet and how you got it. Feels easier already, doesn’t it?

If you need any help figuring out your theme, here’s a free printable list of 125 memoir themes.

You don’t have to write about yourself. If writing your story doesn’t appeal to you right now, what about the story of a parent, aunt or uncle, even a grandparent?

I can’t tell you how many people have told me they wished they wrote down the story of a relative before they passed or the memories became fuzzy. They didn’t know where to begin or it never seemed like a good time, and each year they don’t take any new steps toward putting something together.

Start simple. Sit down with the person you’d like to write about and start asking them questions. The trick is not to treat it like an interview. It’s a conversation between two people, with one person talking and one person listening. Stay open to what might open, and don’t be too rigid about staying “on topic.” Let the conversation flow and be sure to get it down, either by taking notes or recording it.

Feeling shy? Interview yourself! Self-inquiry is a powerful way to start any journal entry or memoir. Start with five minutes per question—you might be surprised by what else you learn.