June 29, 2022

Begin your Memoir by Mining Your Memories


Writers often struggle with the issue of memory: do I have enough memories to write a memoir? Are my memories “correct?” Do I have a right to remember things the way I do even if people disagree with me.

There’s no such thing as correct memory, Memory is about perception and interpretation. Everyone’s view of an event is like a slice of pie—each section looks toward the middle from a different angle. Everyone in a family would write a different memoir—if they dared! The first step in writing your memoir is to claim your memories as you own, and get on with writing.

Finding Memories

There are many ways to capture your memories. Memories exist as wisps of perfume, snippets of images, stories that haunt our dreams, fragments of our lives waiting for us to breathe life into them so they can unfold.

Streams of memory arise when we hear a song or when smells and sounds remind us of certain moments.

1.       Research your home town, state, landscapes, cemeteries. Look it up on Google earth. There’s history and meaning, and memories around every corner.

2.      Get out the family photo album, notice the emotions you have when you view certain photos and memories. Keep your notebook handy.

3.      Get family members to talk about the photos together. You don’t have to tell them it’s research for your memoir! Just probe for their stories, and then rush off to write it down. Or click on your secret tape recorder!

4.      Google the decades and check out all that music! Listen to music of the era when you grew up, and write while it’s playing. What kind of memories come up when you listen? Jot them down in your journal.


Begin writing your memoir

1.       Start with a scene—put yourself in a time and a place, setting where you are physically. Write from sensual experience—bringing in details that create a feeling in you. Later your readers will feel this too.  

2.      Find the turning point moments that helped to create who you are now. List 10-20 of them and begin writing short vignettes of each memory.

3.        Write down your dreams. New memories may arise when your conscious mind is not so alert. Write your dreams in your journal and free associate with the dream. What is it telling you directly? What do you feel the indirect meaning is? Insights and connections happen when we aren’t trying.

4.           Dive into the tough memories, the stories that scare you, the stories you don’t want to write. Here’s the gold, the moments you need to understand, your secrets and regrets. Write a dark story for 10 minutes, to get it on the page. You’ll see it more objectively once it’s in black and white.

5.            What are the life lessons that haunt you, that come back to you on soft feet in the middle of the night? There are riches for you to explore. Memoir is about making meaning, not just a collection of events.

6.           Write every day–in your journal or on the computer. If you can’t write every day, write three times a week for 15 minutes each session. You’ll be surprised how much you can do in 15 minutes.

About Linda Joy Myers


  1. Great tips, Linda. Mining for memories is hard work. For my memoir, I had the benefit of years of photo albums and a police file of an investigation of my ex-husband, but filling in the gaps required lots of “diving into the tough memories.” It was worth it, though, just to expunge my soul of those haunting life lessons.

  2. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very helpful information particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such info much. I was seeking this certain information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

Speak Your Mind