Sometimes your passion to begin a writing project—now!—collides with the reality of work, chores, caretaking. But there’s hope: While we’re all about planning here at RLM, we often encourage clients to use incremental exercises like these to jumpstart their creative vision.
Take inventory. Don’t worry about how your memoir will look, or even what it will focus on. Instead, start the brainstorming process by collecting the resources you already have. Maybe that means family recipes, bundles of correspondence, an ancient photo album, vacation souvenirs. Nothing is too small or silly to note! Gathering everything in one physical location can be helpful in many ways: as a visual reminder of your goals, as a source of inspiration, and as a bit of encouragement. You may be surprised at how much these items will spark imagination and memory. And that might just be the push you need.
Consider your audience. Just as actors sometimes aim their monologues at one particular audience member, you can create a concrete way of envisioning your readers. As we highlighted in our previous blog post, figuring out who will read your life writing is key to shaping it. Now imagine those readers settling down to read your work. What will make your story feel satisfying to them? We can suggest a few things: a story told in your own voice, specific details that make your memories more immediate, and a sense of honesty, both factual and emotional. Zeroing in on future readers—via a photo of a grandchild or a video from a family reunion—can make for immediate and focused inspiration.
Prioritize. Without thinking too hard, list the single most important thing you want your personal history to accomplish. Do you long to record your family’s immigration story, or is it crucial that you pass down your ethical or political philosophy? Will amazing historical stories be lost without a written record? Are there life lessons hidden in the anecdotes that make up your past? Or do you just want to create a personal connection with those who will come after you—a message to the future? Sometimes the big picture can get lost in worrying about all the details. When you clearly identify your biggest priority, everything else will fall in place.
You can take some or all of these steps by yourself, and right now! But when you’re ready to take your ideas to the next level, please get in touch with us for some professional guidance. Regardless of where you are in the process of life history writing, we’re here to help!