5 Thought-Provoking Questions For Starting A Memoir

March 29, 2021

Written by: Joe Fiduccia

Millions of people from all walks of life are thinking ahead. Thinking about their future, the future of their family, and the life story they choose to leave behind.

The desire to pass down something to our children and grandchildren inspires us to live a better life today than we did yesterday. And many of us do everything we can to document the milestones in our journey in a private memoir or Footprint that our future descendants will one day discover.

But given the plethora of experiences that make our life story, preserving those important memories is no easy task. And sometimes getting started is even harder.

Think about all of the ups and downs, accomplishments, hardships, and unexpected turns we’ve been through. We have made decisions that others don’t fully understand. We have kept secrets that no one else ever knew. And the list goes on and on.

In the end…all of these experiences define the life legacy we want to leave behind. So how do we start preserving them in our own personal memoir?

America’s Footprints developed a checklist of over 140 thought-provoking questions to think about when creating a memoir of your life. But if want to keep things simple up front, here are 5 questions (and more) we would like to suggest starting with:

1. Ask yourself “WHY am I writing a memoir?”

This is perhaps the most important question to consider before you begin anything. Are you building this memoir because you want to leave something behind for your family or friends? Your future descendants?

Are you doing this because you think it will make an interesting read as a published novel?

Are you looking for ways to inspire others by publically sharing your personal experiences? Or are you attempting to bring closure to the doors of your past that remain opened?

The possibilities for “why” are endless. But before you start anything, answer this seemingly basic question. Only then will you have a solid foundation for which to build on.

2. “What do I remember about my educational history?”

Think back to the first educational experiences you can remember. What is 1st grade? Kindergarten? Nursery school? What do you remember most about these experiences?
More importantly what do you want others to know about those experiences?

Then continue searching through your educational databanks. For example:

– What are the names of the schools have you attended from grade school on up?

– Who were your teachers, and what do you remember about them?

– What was your favorite school subject? Your least favorite?

Plenty more questions will come to mind. But don’t get bogged down here. This topic alone is enough to keep you busy for months. Remember – keep things simple. You can always return later and add more detail as necessary.

3. “Aside from school, what other highlights do you remember about your childhood?”

These would include experiences with adults, friends, neighbors, family, and cousins…outside of your time in school. For example:

– Where did you grow up?

– What were some of the responsibilities you had around the house?

– Who were your friends? How about best friends?

– Did you play any sports? What did you excel at? What was your least favorite?

– Were you part of any organized groups like Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts?

Our childhood encompasses a very large portion of our life. And in many ways, it defines who were are today. So it’s only natural to want to write about it. But again, start with these questions above. Don’t worry about writing a novel for each and every experience. Just answer the questions with a basic response, and then add more detail as needed or necessary.

4. “What are the milestone moments in your career?”

Once our school ended (or for many of us, before it ended), we began a career. We searched and interviewed for our very first job. We entered our new office for the first time. We learned the workings of the professional world. We earned our first paycheck.

And the list goes on.

But that is why your career history is just as important to start with as your educational history. It represents a major milestone in your life story, and is perhaps another chapter that defines who you are today.

Some more specific questions to think about include:

– When did you first start working for money?

– What was your first job after high school or college?

– Where else have you worked? And for how long?

– Where do you work now? And how have your career interests changed over time?

– Describe your first ‘challenging’ work day, and how you got through it.

– How would you rate your work / life balance?

5. “What are some of the moments in your journey that continue to stay with you forever?

If I were to ask you to tell me something that happened to you 20 years ago, you would have no problem thinking up a story. Maybe not exactly at the 20-year mark, but there will be something.
For example, you might recall the time when you have your first breakup with someone you loved. Or a day when your child won first place in a competition.

Some additional examples also include:

– Who was your first love?

– When did you buy your first home?

– What is one of the proudest moments in your life?

– What is a difficult lesson you learned that you never want your children or grandchildren to experience?

And these don’t have to be big moments either. They can be smaller ones to. For example, a memory you think about from long ago might be as simple as a day you went out for breakfast with a relative you hadn’t seen in a while, or a game you once played with your friend on the playground.

All of us have memories. Some are big, and some are small. But all of them play a significant role in your life story. So you decide what you want to write about, and let your fingers on the keyboard do the rest.

These are just a few simple questions for starting your memoir that lightly scratch the surface. They by no means represent a complete checklist, but instead are designed to help steer you in the right direction when attempting to formulate a simple story of your life.

We all have a life story that deserves to become a permanent Footprint in our family’s history. And perhaps these questions are just enough to help you pass down something of true value to your future descendants.

What other basic questions would you add to the list?