FOR YEARS, I BEGAN EACH NEW WORKSHOP with this memoir writing exercise from WRITING ALONE AND WITH OTHERS. It’s a great way to get to know other people in a group—and also a great way to get to know yourself, so I’ve adapted it here for your personal-writing use.
Memoir writing prompt
How can you kick start your memoir writing with this prompt? Set a timer for seven minutes. Then, writing fast, hit the high and low points of your life, skimming across the years—from birth to this very moment—like they were so many tumbleweeds.
When the timer rings, stop and read over what you wrote. Mark three events that stand out to you. Pick one (you might save the other two for another day, when you’re looking for something to write about).
Take another ten minutes for memoir writing and write in detail about the incident or period you’ve chosen. Why is it important to you now? How is it relevant to the bigger story of your life-to-date?
Extra credit: Was a shadow* illuminated by your attention? If so, how can you write your way to a deeper understanding of what was hidden?
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