How to Write a Memoir
Have you ever wanted to learn how to write a memoir or to sift greater meaning from the journey of your life?
Our Writing Your Life Story classes are designed to help you express the story of your life while finding the life in your story.
Too often we associate writing about life stories (the significant events of a life) with being elderly and composing an autobiography. But life writing is far richer than this narrow perspective and very accessible. Before going into the subject of how to write memoir, contemplate your why.
Uplifting others through Storytelling
Have you ever considered how you might compile your stories into a non-fiction work where you pass on your knowledge or interesting experiences?
Willie Daly spent his life working as a relationship matchmaker. He used the stories of his experiences to produce the non-fiction work, The Last Matchmaker: The Heart-Warming True Story of the Man Who Brought Love to Ireland.
Willie Daly - Compiled his work experiences into a memoir
Almost everyone finds satisfaction in having a creative outlet. We are all born to express ourselves creatively, not just absorb the creative works of others. Writing offers the fulfilment of self-expression.
Life Writing & Career Development
Life writing can also help you vocationally. By composing life stories you develop writing skills which can be transferred to vocational areas. As more people move into service based professions, memoirs and other life writing books and Ebooks can help with establishing credibility. Take the case of Susan Jeffers.
After obtaining a degree in psychology, Susan worked in a hospital and wrote about her life. This led her to producing her work, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, after which she became renowned in the field of personal growth.
Susan Jeffers - digested her personal struggles and writing an autobiography helped launch her career as an author
Life Writing & Greater Connection
Writing a memoir is one of the most enriching experiences you can undertake. As Patricia Hampl pointed out:
“To write one’s life is to live it twice and the second living is both spiritual and historical, for a memoir reaches deep within the personality as it seeks its narrative form.”
But it delivers more than just connection to self. Life writing if often the foundation upon which many social gatherings revolve around:
- Moth Talks - these are global events where true stories are told live.
- TED Talks - while more formal, many of the best talks include personal storytelling.
- Women of Letters - an Australian initiative where women (and more recently men) write a letter based on their life.
- Stand up comedy - comic Hasan Minhaj took the event of his high school prom and created an entire show around it.
- Spoken word - life writing is often adapted into performance pieces such as Shane Koyczan's experience of being bullied in 'To This Day.'
- Toastmasters - this global public speaking group encourages participants to write speeches, made more impacting through life writing.
While many of the people I work with could quite easily do my online memoir course, many opt to take part in my week long life writing class to make new friendships and experience the unique bonding that occurs through sharing one's most personal stories.
Writing & Sharing Life Stories is a Profoundly Connecting Experience
Life Writing & Narrative Therapy
The rise of narrative therapy is a testament to the power of life story writing to fosters greater self-understanding and personal development. Reflecting and writing about difficult times helps facilitate catharsis and healing around loss, relational breakdown and other painful experiences.
In line with brain plasticity research, it has been proven that writing about life experiences rearranges memories to produce new perspectives in our relationship to what we see on the page. Creative nonfiction becomes more than therapeutic, it becomes transformative and empowering. Reaching into the events of your life allows you to locate deeper layers of wisdom and find the healing that can lie within them.
The writer Juliet Bruce suggests that “Once you understand that life is an unfolding story and that you are the storyteller who can shape and play with it on the page, then use that page as you would a roadmap, you gain tremendous power in your life."
Narrative Therapy - Recognising our stories and reframing nurtures brain plasticity
How To Write Memoir
The Writing Your Life Story program is designed for both experienced writers and new writers. What matters most is being self-reflective and open to exploring life events as a way of making greater sense of their passage through life.
For those wanting to learn about life story, the memoir writing courses are offered in a variety of ways.
The group class takes place at Camp Creative in Bellingen, suiting NSW writers. This 5 day program covers different life phases and milestone moments. Some writing techniques are explored, as is the mythic, or imaginative approach of incorporating archetypes in our stories for greater impact.
Through small group sharing of one’s writing pieces, this writing workshop facilitates a strong sense of connection and catharsis.
Writing Courses in Sydney
Our writing courses in Sydney are offered from our Blue Mountains retreat space.
For those looking for a deeper dive, I offer an intensive retreat experience for an individual. Whereas the group program spends half a day on a particular life passage/archetype, the writers retreat program spends two days on each. This enables you to bath in many memoir examples, writing techniques and go into greater depth about your life phases.
Another benefit of this course is being able to receive personalised mentoring, editing and feedback on your writing.
This writing retreat takes place in an Australian Writers Centre, in the beautiful Blue Mountains of NSW.
Learn More About the 2 Day Retreat Experience
Memoir Writing Online Course
Lastly, there is an online option for those who are not located near Sydney or who want to work in a slower, self-paced manner.
Purchase Module #1 in my THE ONLINE MEMOIR WRITING PROGRAM
Writers Retreat Australia
A Guests Experience
After taking part in the group memoir writing class, Ros developed the stories she wrote over the week long course until she had sufficient material for a book.
She brought her material to our Blue Mountains retreat and we worked together to piece the stories together and accentuate her narrative.
With some further polishing, Ros went on to publish her memoir, which you can read a sample of here.
This is how she described her experience of undertaking the intensive retreat program:
I have just returned from a Writes of Passage Retreat run by Marcus. I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s definitely been one of the best things I’ve done.
I started out with a draft of events that made up my life story and after a few days of gentle conversation and insights shared from psychology, a whole bunch of new truths came to the fore.
I feel changed because of these discoveries and I can’t wait to write these new depths of meaning into my narrative.
Marcus’s open, unassuming yet skilful approach was just what I needed to build and strengthen the story of my life. Its been an amazing few days!
With a desire to write my life story as a gift for my children, I undertook your life story writing group and discovered that writing the story of my life might actually be achievable.
The focus on finding the bigger narrative in one’s life led to my “Eureka” moment - when all at once, I realised how I would frame my story and how each chapter would unfold.
I found that writing it up was enjoyable and cathartic and I know I have you to thank for getting me started and showing me the way.
When I arrived at your retreat space to work individually with you I had a draft of my story which to me seemed a little dull and probably incomplete.
Again the question of bigger narratives revealed itself as we discussed my life events and also explored other tools including the idea that we each have a life path we explore. You helped me to identify themes that I had barely thought of.
With unsurpassed patience, you read through my draft word by word and along the way you shared insights that now “must” be included in the book - they are all so vital.
Now as I look back over this week, I am in absolute awe of the themes you have highlighted. I have work to do - but I am excited and can’t wait to begin to incorporate them!
Marcus, you have given me such a valuable gift - I feel uplifted because of the “truths” we discovered together and emboldened by your words as I embark on this next stage.
I greatly appreciate all that you have given me and your great generosity of spirit,
How To Write Memoir - FAQS
What Is A Memoir
Memoirs are descriptions of a particular theme or time of your life. Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ focuses on overcoming racism and trauma during her childhood. Liz Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ covers three particular themes over a 12 month period.
What Is Autobiography
What is an autobiography? Where a memoir focuses on a section of one’s life, autobiography tends to cover the entirety of a life. It is a self-written account in contrast to biography, which is written by someone else. Albert Facey’s,‘A Fortunate Life’ is an example of one.
What Is Therapeutic Life Story Work
Therapeutic life story work is based on the view that reflecting on our life and teasing out details about events and situations helps us to heal or integrate our past. It is similar to narrative therapy but more writing focused. What is narrative therapy? It is a form of psychology which holds that how we view life events is as impacting as the events themselves. Each of us can reframe our pasts in a way where we can cultivate gratitude and see how apparently negative incidents have served a larger purpose.
Why Write Memoir
In my experience, a person’s reason for writing a memoir often depends on their stage of life. Up until midlife, it can be a way to expand their career reach, where people in their twilight are more motivated by leaving a legacy to loved ones. Some find it therapeutic and healing, others find it a satisfying form of self-expression. Initially, you might doubt your life has been that remarkable but as Mark Twain quipped, “There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior, there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy.”
How Is An Autobiography Written
Once you’ve decided that writing about your life is worthwhile, the next question you encounter is how to write about your life story. Firstly, decide if one part of your life is particularly juicy or compelling for you to write about. If so, you might want to write a memoir rather than cover the entirety of your life. Should you choose to write your full autobiography, reflect on whether its something you want to share primarily with family or if you wish to give it a wider audience. An unabridged version is great for the family who wish to learn names and places but for a general audience, too much detail takes the gloss off your story. A final aspect to ponder when it comes to how to start writing a book about your life, is deciding what style of writing to adopt. Following a timeline from youth to elderhood is an easy way to break up your life. There are many other models, which may prove more engaging for an audience to read. Perhaps the best advice on how to write about your life story is just start writing and see where things take you.
How To Write A Short Story Of My Life
To work out how to write a life story about yourself, firstly ask what fuels your motivation. Perhaps you’re wanting to make amends with your child, a parent or friend whom you’ve had a falling out with. Writing about the incident from your perspective might help the other party see it differently. Maybe there is a short story contest you’re entering. You might write about an event that people will find fascinating as it is so unusual or unexpected. Is there a personal issue you’re battling with currently? Writing about your struggle with it might help you to work through it. Once you’ve found your motivation and the event or issue at the heart of the story, begin to tease out details. Who are some of the characters involved? How can you build dramatic tension and slowly reveal engaging elements of the story? Ideate and brainstorm ideas. After writing the story in long-form do a second draft where you pare back information that isn’t critical or compelling. Send a copy of your edited version to some encouraging friends and ask for feedback. Writing life stories is a journey. While it is satisfying having a finished piece, be sure not to rush it and savour the experience.