5 Tips For Writing A Good Memoir

June 1, 2020

Written by: Joe Fiduccia

Regardless of where you are in life, most everyone will agree that it’s been one heck of a ride. Every single day from the moment we wake up, we are creating memories. Many of which we weren’t even expecting to make.

But as thousands attempt writing about their own personal experiences, there is one problem we eventually encounter: there are just too many stories, and not all of them can fit.

Whether it’s via a published book, a diary, or a Footprint profile, summarizing our life story and preserving the poignant moments can be a daunting task. And I will be honest – given the plethora of life’s moments to pick from, it’s one that even I am afraid to take on sometimes.

Our life is one massive…very complicated story. And thus it isn’t something we can summarize at the dinner table or with a quick weekend write-up.

But despite the complexity our stories bring, many of us take a shot at preserving it anyway.  And if you among those who tackle the challenge of story preservation, here are five simple tips you can add to your arsenal:

1: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Let’s pick one simple story from this past week as an example. My family and I recently got to spend some time with friends in NYC. They don’t live locally and thus we rarely get to see them throughout the year. So this get-together was a special treat which made for a memorable day.

Now let’s say I decide to write about this experience in my Footprint. This is where I will ask the inevitable question: “what should I say?”

Because this memory alone is filled with both meaningful, and meaningless details.

Instead of focusing on that general question of “what should I say,” concentrate only on the moments that meant to the most to you. Ask yourself: “what made the day a memorable one?”

In my case from last week, it was great to spend time with friends we haven’t seen in a while. But I would rather write about the discussions we had and the laughs we shared. I would also want to mention some of the things our children did together, and how their friendship was strengthened during this visit.

What I don’t want to do is get caught up in the details, like the places we visited or the food we ate. Though fun to add, those are the fillers of a story that you can always come back to and add later on.

So when you pick a moment you wish to preserve, summarize the highlights that were most meaningful to you. And if you have time later, revisit the story and add the smaller details as you see fit.

2: Focus on what is important to you, not what you think others will want to read.

write your life story

This happens all the time for me. As I begin preserving a memory or milestone in my life, I start writing the story as if my intentions are to create a best-selling novel.

I try to be creative with my choice of words, and even begin each story with several paragraphs that do nothing more than provide an annoying trailer.

Because of my limited vocabulary, I often begin looking up the synonyms to basic words just so I can sound more “educated” when I write the story. Because ultimately I am trying to create an interesting portrayal of my life for my future descendants, as I don’t want them to be bored reading it.

Usually when this happens, I catch myself and stop writing after just a few sentences. Because I realize it just isn’t me.

I am a simple person with a simple vocabulary. I am not a professional author or storyteller, and never had a formal introduction into the world of entertainment. So when I start over again, I write to preserve, not to entertain.

And honestly I don’t mind if my story is just mildly entertaining. All I care about is doing something to preserve it, so my children or grandchildren will have something to remember me by.

So when you are writing your Footprint memoirs, take the stress off of yourself. Write your story the best way you know how. And don’t worry about what everyone else will say about it.

Besides, for all you know, your simple story could become a best-selling novel in 2075 anyway!

3: Don’t get bogged down with spelling or grammar. They won’t care!

Ok this is an easy one. By all means, take advantage of programs that offer spelling and grammar checks. You at least want your life story to be legible.

But don’t worry about proof-reading it 15 times in an attempt to make it grammatically perfect. As long as your story gets the point across, your future descendants likely won’t even notice the mistakes you made while writing it.

Regardless of how well it was written, your children and grandchildren will be caught up in reliving your story through your words…eager to see where the next chapter will lead them.

And even if they are a stickler for details, they probably won’t even care. Because you did something for them that many others do not. You took the time to preserve the milestones in your journey, just so they would have a memoir to remember you by.

4: Spend just 15 minutes a week preserving your memories, and watch your memoir grow!

When was the last time you mumbled the words: “where has the time gone?”

It is no secret that all of us are busy. We all have a life to live and we have responsibilities to manage. I, too, struggle finding the time to sit down and add new memories to my Footprint. And I will be honest – there are some weeks I just can’t find the time at all.

But that is why I attempt to dedicate 15 minutes a week to it. While it’s maybe just enough time to add a single milestone, or upload a few memorable photos, at least it’s something.

I have to say I’m quite amazed at how big my Footprint has become over the years. I have amassed a profile that contains hundreds of memorable moments, all of which I will be passing down to my child. And all it took was a measly 15 minutes each week.

If you set aside some time, you will learn it really doesn’t take much to create a memoir in your family’s history. Even just five minutes is better than none.

A childhood friend of mine can sum this one up the best. His words of wisdom: “add 5 drops of water to a glass every day. And before you know it, the glass will overflow.”

5: If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

I liken this to asking for directions when you are lost. If a GPS is not readily available, and a map just doesn’t exist, how will you find your way?

Sometimes the best way to learn anything is to get in the car and start driving. The road may be a long one, but you keep going in the hopes your destination awaits just around the corner.

But there also comes a point when we must admit defeat. The tank may be running on empty, leaving us with a decision: do we keep on driving around aimlessly, or do we pull over and ask someone for help?

We can’t always find our way without help from the experts. Our life may be filled with some of the best stories known to mankind, but those stories are meaningless if we can’t figure out a way to preserve them for our children.

If you are struggling to find your way, don’t be afraid to ask for help. In addition to our free checklists and support from the experts at America’s Footprints, there are hundreds of family history preservation professionals and historians that are ready to help your memorialize your journey.

And if you need assistance in documenting your life story, you can contact an expert at America’s Footprints, you can ask your friends, or you can perform a simple online search. But unlike pulling over and asking for directions, this doesn’t mean you are admitting defeat.

It simply means you need some help finding your way. Because you want to do your best in creating a life legacy that is worthy of preservation.

We hope these additional tips have been useful in getting started with your digital memoir. At the end of the day, all of us deserve the opportunity to be remembered in our family’s history. But if we don’t take the time to preserve these special moments that make up our story, our legacy will end soon after we say our final goodbye.

What other tips would you add to our list?