I had to give a talk on “Writing My Life Story”
I searched the library for books on this subject and I found what looked like a good one. I checked it out and took it home. I was a bit nervous about this talk – it was the twenty-five year celebration of a local writers’ group, and I knew there would be a good crowd.
So I started thru the book. “Draw a map of the street you grew up on. Put in all the houses with the names of the people and then think about your relationship with each of those people.”
Hell of a good idea, so I continued in the book. How to describe characters – the same material that all the good books on writing had. Putting characters in a plot – again the same information. The locations of your story—same and with the usual caution to cut the fat.
I started to skim the book. Same, same, same. I realized that I had picked up a book on writing, not on writing your memoir, with the exception of that first good idea.
Maybe there is no such thing as a good book on writing your life story – the thing to do is sit down and start writing. It really doesn’t matter where you start, just write. If you feel like writing about that time you took care of horses at a summer camp, then do it. When you are finished, you can put the pieces together. Lay them all out on a table and see what the theme is or how they are connected. This is how successful writer Diana Gabaldon does it. This is how I wrote my story, Once a Priest, except for the part about the horses. I had to throw that out.