I am constantly asked where do I start my memoir or what should it be about. It seems that even the best of us who have lived our stories often do not know which bits to capture and share. And right now, that doesn’t matter because we are here to explore.
Here's an idea to kickstart the memoir process. Grab your journal and allow your thoughts to flow.
What Is The Story That Will Become Your Memoir
Your story is a funny old sausage. I remember sitting in a pub saying to my friends that I was going to become a politician and the CEO of a global company, and I was going to change the world. I became neither and lost my way because of the things I needed to heal. I was angry at the world because of early abuse and did things to drown the pain out. While I abused my body and chose unhealthy relationships, a part of me wanted so much more, and I needed to prove I had value.
This led me to take an MBA (after getting expelled from school) and an ILM (institute Of Leadership And Management) Level 7 Executive Coaching Certificate, simultaneously training as an NLP practitioner. I was doing things to prove I was intelligent and had self-worth.
The problem was I was looking at symptoms and not the root cause. That came many years later and took me by surprise. But it also led to some interesting revelations and a new look at old memoirs.
First, a cruel and selfish man showed me the way out. I caught him at something. Ok, he was living a double life, and yes, this will make its way into a novel… Everything fell apart that day, but it also pushed me to find myself or at least some part of me. Putting my two dogs in our motorhome, I drove to another country and fell to pieces while pretending I was ok. In falling apart, I learned to love myself – which was a good job because I had illness after illness. If we suppress our emotions, I believe they will one day find a way out, and mine certainly did.
I naturally healed an overactive thyroid, a fractured spine, severe osteoporosis (with many other complications), shingles, and a fractured rib with a nasty chest infection. When any specialist told me to take drugs, my wild inner child and my bloody-minded older self decided my way or the highway. Boy, did I learn a lot about nutrition, the body and energy healing.
But here's the thing even though I wrote endless blogs and even books on self-love and healing osteoporosis, it left me cold. Healing was a passion. Nutrition was a passion. Energy medicine, crystals and chakras were also passions. But I was not passionate enough for these to be my calling. They were part of my healing toolkit alongside therapies.
The biggest thing to save my life was my journal, where I poured my life and my stories. It was there when no one else was. Through exploring and reflecting on my stories and healing, I’ve always felt that there was something that we mere mortals had come to planet Earth to do. All of us have a mission. Mine, it turns out, is not natural healing but helping others heal through writing and using their stories to change the world. In whatever way you describe your world.
What does that even mean, you may ask? My belief is that when you wake up to your story and heal whatever you need to heal, you will find something that calls you. The call of this wild thing will be so strong that you cannot stop it. The call to help others share their healing story has been too strong to ignore.
We will talk about wake-up calls in another blog. I
mention them here because I had another wake-up call that changed many things, and this has become the focus of my memoir rewrite. Hold this in mind as you create your story list. Consider what is THE wake-up call that you want to focus on. Wait, it will come.
My clients have written some incredible books. They are a mixture of memoirs and self-help. One client focuses on helping people sleep so they can function. Another helps disillusioned CEOs find a life of fulfilment. Another wants people to be size happy and healthy rather than torture themselves with diets and destructive eating methods. Another has a way of helping her clients overcome IBS. Another is teaching people to move from 3D living to 5D with the assistance of animals. While another found her purpose in supporting women who have been trafficked.
Each of these has experienced something in their lives that has spoken to a deeper part of them, and their story is a part of their mission on Earth. So what is it you have come to Earth to do?
Let's go on an adventure, shall we and explore your stories? Are you ready to explore further? For this adventure through life, there will have been many experiences that have shaped you. Let's uncover them and see what we can glean from them. This is one of my favourite exercises, and I learn something new each time I do it. This will give you the story and your themes and remind you of things you may want to put into your book. It is very revealing.
Your story is not your entire life. Memoirs always cover part of your life. It’s the part of your life that your readers identify with. You want to bring what’s true to life using your insights and how you have made sense of your experiences.
In your story or stories is the theme or themes. The theme covers the message you are here to share. The theme could be self-love, love, addiction, healing parental wounds, abuse, inner peace, joy or many other areas. The theme will keep you o
n track and on topic, which is important as this links to your transformational process and inspiring message. You may and probably will find that each chapter has a theme that feeds into the overall theme. But it may not…
Like a play, the story and theme of your life will unfold, drawing your reader into the finer detail. This is where you are painting a picture for your reader, taking them to places they may never have been, and helping them become immersed in your world.
Your Memoir Story List
Creating a story list is one effective way to get your memoir story out of your head and onto paper as a stream of consciousness. This exercise allows you to capture the essence of your narrative without being hindered by structure or organisation. Here's how you can create your story list:
Choose a quiet environment where you can focus without distractions. Settle into a comfortable position, ensuring you have a beautiful journal and pen to hand. For me, this would be tucked up in bed with my furry family.
Start by setting a timer for a specific duration, perhaps 15 or 30 minutes. This time limit will encourage you to write continuously without self-editing or overthinking. You could use Brain.FM and the creativity program.
Start with a prompt or simply the words "My memoir story list." Then, let your thoughts flow freely. Write down everything that comes to mind—memories, significant events, people, places, emotions, milestones, or any other aspects that are relevant to your memoir. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation, or coherence at this stage; the goal is to capture the raw essence of your story.
As you write, resist the urge to evaluate or criticise your ideas. Judgement is not allowed. Allow your thoughts to stream onto the paper without filtering or censoring. If you get stuck, write "and then" or "I remember" to keep the momentum going. I love this part because it gives me things that I can chat about with my mum, who will add her perspective and stories and off we go again.
If certain memories trigger related thoughts or associations, follow those tangents. Let your mind wander freely, and write down any additional details or connections that come to mind. This process can uncover hidden gems or reveal unexpected threads in your story. This is also a fave part. I love going off on tangents.
Recall the emotions associated with different events or experiences. Write about how you felt during specific moments- joy, sadness, fear, or any other intense emotional state. The emotional landscape of your memoir adds depth and resonance to your narrative. A word of caution here: if stuff comes up, you may want to or need to talk these things through. I once was writing about an incident which had incited anger. As I went off on a tangent, it unlocked the door to something I needed support with. Never be afraid to ask for help.
Remember that this exercise aims to get your story out of your head, so include everything that comes to mind, regardless of perceived importance. Even seemingly mundane or trivial details can serve as valuable building blocks for your memoir.
If you experience a brief pause or get stuck on a particular memory, keep your pen moving. Write anything—random thoughts, observations, or even questions to explore later. The goal is to maintain a continuous flow of writing.
Once the timer goes off, go and do something to change your state and take a moment to review what you have written. Read through your story list, allowing the words to sink in. Reflect on the memories and connections you've captured. This initial stream-of-consciousness writing can serve as a foundation for further exploration and structuring of your memoir.
Creating a memoir story list through a stream of consciousness exercise is an excellent way to release the floodgates of your memories and experiences. It frees you from the constraints of structure and allows your authentic voice to emerge. Use this list as a starting point to dive deeper into individual stories, expand upon significant events, and uncover your memoir's underlying themes and messages.
And on that note, what themes do you see emerging?
This is just the beginning of your memoir journey. Embrace the process, allow yourself to explore, and trust that the stories within you will find their way onto the pages.
Ready to explore further, then take Ignite Your Memoir.