It was only seven years ago when I began writing books. I was forty-five years old and my mother had just passed away. I started with a simple, four-page story called, "My Mother, My Sister, and Their Dogs." It detailed, jokingly, how every time I'd come to visit, they'd spend two minutes with me and the rest of the visit mollycoddling their dogs. "Do you have to go out?" "Make that funny sound. A-woo-woo-woo. A woo-woo-woo." I wrote it with no intention of writing a full book.
Like a lot of writers who take to the task to share their experiences in life, I just needed to get it all out. It was therapeutic. And I wanted all my trials and tribulations written down before they slipped from my head. I knew that someday I'd want to look back at them. Recently I pulled that book out and reread a few. It was amazing. And I'm so glad I did it. And my friends, family, and strangers have connected with it as well.
There seems to be this belief that you must be famous or have accomplished something grand in the public eye to write a memoir. I remember after I finished Musings, I told a local bartender about it. She said, "You've written a memoir because you've done what?" I was taken aback and hurt by her lack of enthusiasm, but I understood where she was coming from. Who am I to write about my life and myself? Well, I'm here to tell you that you should do it because your life experiences are important. They're important because you may have triumphed over pain or overcome obstacles that will help others. For me it was an alcoholic father, being lonely, gay, and dealing with a lot of shit-ass people in my life. Plus you can also make people laugh. You don't have to be famous to do that. As a matter of fact, I've read several autobiographies from public figures. Outside of their claims to fame, many have led pretty boring, uneventful lives.
So start simple. Think of a moment in your life: first bicycle, first bully, first kiss, etc. And write down the memory as if you were telling a friend. Detail how you felt at the time. It doesn't have to be long. You'll know you're done when you've exhausted all you can say about it. Then, move on to another memory. Let it flow from your head to paper. This is not the time to hold back. People like sincerity. Write one a week and you'll have a book to share in a year. How cool is that?
Below is a list of books on writing memoirs that I found helpful while writing my own. They were very encouraging.
Oh, and that bartender. I'm on my fourth book and she's still serving beers seven years later. So, yes, I have accomplished something. Bitch. ;o)
Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas
Writing Your Life by Patti Miller
Advice for Writers by Jon Winokur