A women’s group once asked me to read excerpts from my personal stories. They asked why and how I wrote them. And they asked for advice about writing their own memoirs.
Paraphrased below, is what I said.
Write about memorable experiences, even the tiny ones.
Write about yourself; things you did or saw happen; the people you met. Write about what they said, and how that affected you; what you learned from them.
But above all, just get into the habit of jotting things down. In a journal, a notebook. On your cell phone. Pieces of paper. The phone bill.
Write. Jot it down.
A word you love. A quote from someone else. The way the light shone through your window and lit up the polished wood floors. The way that made you feel.
Over time, you may have enough material for one story, or dozens. You don’t try to get them published. Too personal, you think. And – – what if no-one even likes them?
Then, by a twist of fate, you have an accident and find yourself unable to move from your bed on many days. When you talk, you stutter. And when you walk, you may even fall.
You will not be able to write a story for years.
But you will have those old stories to remind you of the kinds of people you met, experiences you had, insights you learned – in short, the life you lived. You may discover that you’d been blessed with a very good life. And that you had been given a wonderful gift in the form of those stories.
Then, along comes a prestigious magazine that wants to publish your stories, and a publisher who wants to launch your first book. Turns out that in those dozens of stories, written over 25 years, you had, unknowingly, recorded the elements of your memoir.
Then thousands of people read your book, A Good Home, and take comfort — even joy — from it.
And that, taken singly or together, is both a surprise and a huge serving of grace.
Top photo by J. Van Burek.