Blogs, Creative Writing, Uncategorized

Things to Consider When Writing a Memoir

Are you thinking about writing your first memoir? My disclaimer: I’m not the foremost authority on memoir writing. What I can tell you is I’ve written more than a handful of memoirs, and three are published. One piece of advice I’ve heard over the years is to write what you know. Memoirs are the easiest of the genres to write, in my opinion. There’s no need to imagine content since it’s your real-life account of events or experiences.

In this blog today, I’m focusing on a high-level view of things to consider when thinking about writing a memoir.

  • Decide whether you want to write a memoir or an autobiography.
    • A memoir is a snapshot of a certain experience, time period, or event in your life. There are authors that write numerous memoirs with many themes. You’ll decide the focus of each memoir or the only memoir you write.
      • For example, I wrote one memoir about a special aunt and our relationship from different periods in my life; another memoir was about my experiences as a caregiver to my spouse -which included the years we navigated the organ transplant list process; the most recent memoir I wrote was simply about a year in my life living through the 2020 pandemic.
    • An autobiography is the story of your life. There are more than enough online resources on autobiography writing. I’ve yet to write my autobiography.
  • Think about how you want to start your memoir.
    • Most memoirs begin with an interesting, devastating, or exciting event in your life. Some say memoir or any legacy writing shouldn’t be presented in chronological order.  However, I believe if a memoir is creative and well-written, starting at the beginning can work. It depends on the subject matter and what the author is trying to convey to the reader.
  • Relax and know a memoir is the easiest thing you’ll ever write.
    • Why? Because you already know the story. There’s no mystery as to what the end of the book will produce. You control how much and what you want to write. Let your words flow just as though you’re writing in a journal about the subject of the memoir. You’re, in fact, telling your true story to your audience – write it as if they were sitting in front of you listening.
  • Be prepared to write more than one memoir.
    •  Alternatively, if you have more than a handful of subjects/events to write about that span throughout your entire life to date  – you might consider writing an autobiography or multiple memoirs.
  • Ask yourself what you want your first or only memoir to be about.
    • Memoirs are usually written about (for example):
      • The Loss of a loved one and the effect it had on your life.
      • A special friendship you had during a period in your life.
      • Your experience going into adulthood.
      • How you adjusted to a change in your life during a difficult time (divorce, sickness, death).
      • Changing careers and how those changes affected you as a person.
      • A change in your financial status and the events that brought about the change.   
      • How you handled your life through a particular time in world events (i.e., 9/11; World War; Earthquake; Floods; Recession; Pandemic).
      • How you overcame humble beginnings and the lessons learned.
      • How mistakes caused you to fail and the wisdom gained from those experiences.
      • A relationship with a family member that was volatile or wonderfully special; how it shaped you as a person.
      • How you recovered from a devastating illness (physical or mental); include the lessons learned about the condition, yourself, and the people in your life during that time.
      • How parenting changed your life during a specific period in you and your child’s life.
      • Surviving a violent event/prolonged abuse and how your account may be able to help others cope with their own experience.
      • The valuable and interesting life lessons you learned during your present or previous occupation.

Finally, the theme of your memoir can be whatever you want. The experience, person, achievement, or world event that had the most profound effect on your life may be the focal point for your first memoir. You’re most likely not alone in your experience and someone will want to read your story.

Happy writing!

©2021 R.H.W. Dorsey

R.H.W. Dorsey is a multi-genre author of memoir, fiction, and poetry. Her latest works are a poetry book, “Pandemic-Inspired Poetry” and “I Should Write Some of This Down.”

Blogs, Creative Writing, current events, Health, Uncategorized

Thoughts on COVID-19

You’d think an author who enjoys writing essays, fiction, memoirs, and poems would have lots to say and pen about the pandemic. Until now, this is only the second time I’ve blogged about COVID-19. On March 16, 2020 I blogged my state of Pennsylvania had 41 known cases of the virus. As I blog today, my state has 18,228 confirmed cases per the cdc.gov website. Increased testing is said to be part of the sharp rise in cases. The comments I’ve seen on social media highlight how the health crisis has affected the lives of Americans and the entire world. Lately, there’s so much noise around me I can hardly hear myself think. Most of my frustration with the noise is my fault. It’s been easy for me to get roped into reading and watching videos for hours about the latest COVID-19 news. Initially, I tell myself I’m only going to devote a certain amount of time to the latest news about the virus. Then, before I realize what I’ve done, I’m down a rabbit hole where my browser takes me literally around the world and back.

I’ve written in my daily journal twice since this worldwide health crisis began many weeks ago. The lack of dedication to my journal might be a subconscious attempt on my part not to panic. You’d think writing would do the opposite – it usually does, but not now. I don’t know what to think since the situation with this coronavirus is still fluid. Even the CDC, admits the way the virus is transmitted isn’t fully known. A blurb on the CDC’s website: “COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads and the severity of illness it causes.” See here.  

The virus became a pandemic this year, 2020. For the rare person that doesn’t know, COVID-19 is the name given to this novel coronavirus. According to the CDC, the virus’ symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. To say I feel numb at this moment is as accurate as I can describe my mood. As for the orders of my state and local government to shelter in place, I’m complying for my sake as well as my loved ones and everyone else. I didn’t have much anxiety about the stay at home orders in the beginning. As a full-time writer, my place of business is at my home. I figured my daily routine would be the same. I was wrong. There’s something about deciding to spend most of your time at home that’s freeing. However, being told one must stay indoors, is an entirely different thing. I lost focus on my daily activities to an extent. I’m sure I’ll get back to my normal routine in time. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to go out and invite the COVID-19 into my life or my household. I’m smart enough to notice what’s going on in the world. People are dying from this virus and this is as serious as it gets. I feel my government could’ve been better prepared – which is a conversation I don’t care to address right now. My problems at this moment are small in the scheme of things. I have to consider what I’ve read today about the number of deaths contributing to COVID-19 being approximately 1,970 per day in the United States. I’m thinking about the families of the impersonal number of 1,970. Those who passed away are more than numbers. The 1,970 are parents, grandparents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who’ll never get to finish whatever life they were living. It’s probably unimaginable to some the amount of grief families experience when a loved one is stricken down so quickly. Sadly, I know the pain of losing a loved one so suddenly. The stories of people who seem to be well one day and in a critical care situation days later are scary. To make things even more concerning for me, African Americans have contracted the virus and are dying at a higher rate than other groups. See here.  

I’ve seen more than a few articles and posts on social media touting God, the universe, or some type of karma as the reason for this worldwide pandemic. The answer in form of a reason won’t ever come, I suspect. What I believe is the fallout from this virus will result in changing most of our lives either directly or indirectly. I’ve heard soundbites on television that the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will take years to correct. I’m sure lives have been altered forever and possibly many relationships destroyed as a result of the unemployment and hardships people are experiencing now. As with the 9-11 tragedy of 2001, I believe a positive result will be that people start to value family, friends and their fellow humans being more than ever. At least, that’s my hope. The person who first said ‘life is fleeting’ was wise. I’m continuing to believe my country, the United States, and our global community will bounce back.