Identifying Opportunities for Writing Memoirs

Day 10/31: Blog Your Own Book Challenge

Parag Shah
5 min readAug 10, 2020


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

This is my tenth post for the Blog Your Own Book Challenge. In the previous post, I identified my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I also identified four topics that I want to write about in 2020. They are:

  1. Writing based on my life and personal experiences
  2. Journaling & therapeutic writing
  3. Self-love and self-care
  4. Travel

Now that I know which topics I want to write sbout, the next step is to analyze writing opportunities for each of these topics.

I’ll analyze each topic separately to identify writing opportunities.

Today’s post is about the first topic.

Writing based on my life and personal experiences

After sleeping way past midnight last night, I woke up at 4:30 AM with intense body pain and a headache. It’s something that happens quite often to me. I haven’t figured out why it happens but if I sleep for a few more hours, the pain is usually gone. Today, I had difficulty going back to sleep. So after about 15 minutes of struggling I reached out for my cellphone and opened Medium to check my feed for the day. Interestingly (actually, thankfully!!!) the first article I saw was related to what I wanted to write about today. It was titled: I May Have One Life, But I Have Hundreds Of Life Stories

So true. All of us have hundreds of life stories. The author has published four memoirs and lots of articles about her life. Quoting her:

I have a long history of writing memoirs. I’ve published 4 books and numerous articles about being, well… ME. But here’s my confession: I’m not that interesting. — Martha Manning

I think she’s just modest about not being interesting. But, perhaps, the real point she is trying to make is that you can take a simple experience and turn it into something wonderful. Something that’s warm and touches the heart, or something mysterious, or entertaining, or adventurous, or mystical, or poetic.

One guy could have a breathtaking plot of being stranded in an Arctic ice storm for 30 days, but produce an incredibly dull story. Another woman could become a grandmother, a common occurrence, but her story might be warm and captivating, with significant interest to readers. — Martha Manning

That’s sage advice for anyone who wants to write in the memoir genre. If that’s you then I strongly recommend that you read her article because it’s got a lot more than what I’ve just quoted.

There are a lot of opportunities in writing memoir type articles and books. There was a time when my understanding of the word memoir was limited. A memoir, to me, was either an autobiography or a biography. It was much later that I realized how vast the genre really is.

A memoir can be a narration of just one experience that happened within the span of a few hours or days. Or it could be the story of a series of experiences that happened in one particular phase of your life.

A memoir can describe a turning point in your life.

It could list your experiences along the journey of being a parent or caring for an aged parent.

It can describe the experiences you had on an international job posting or the sabatical in which you spend a year volunteering at a wildlife reserve.

A memoir can chronicle an author’s journey as she dealt with and resolved, or accepted, a particularly challenging life situation.

It could be the story of a lesson learned, or if you are a teacher, a lesson taught.

It can also be a view of your life from a certain perspective, like Pamela Paul’s book “My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.” The book is a view of her life through her book journal which she lovingly calls BoB.

Opportunities Abound

There are so many experiences that can be turned into memoirs:

  1. Did you stand up to the high-school bully or that dominating person who throws his weight around in the office? your memoir about that might give courage to others.
  2. Did you pull three all-nighters in a row to meet a deadline? I know it’s not good for health neither is it a topic to boast about but lessons learned can be invaluable to someone who may find themselves in a similar situation.
  3. I’ve dealt with some very difficult phases in life. Many lessons have been learned the hard way. I want to share these lessons because everyone doesn’t have to learn everything the hard way. I’m sure all of us have such lessons that we can share.
  4. Did a book impact you in a way that changed your life? Well, it’ll make a great before and after story.
  5. How about something joyful? Did you go on a road trip that was super-fun? A description of that road-trip can bring a smile to many readers.
  6. How about the time when you just got your driving license. Do you have humorous ‘on the road’ stories?
  7. Did you have a really good teacher or mentor who made a big difference to your life? You can share what you learned because not everyone is fortunate to have good teachers.
  8. Did you have an aha moment when you finally understood something that had kept it’s meaning hidden? I had such a moment when I finally got what object-oriented programming really meant. I wrote about it a really long time back and received very encouraging feedback.
  9. Can you think of the first song you really enjoyed? And all the songs after that which you enjoyed at different phases of your life? What did the song mean to you? What was going on in your life that made the song so special? It’ll make an interesting memoir similar to what Pamela Paul did with books.
  10. Did you build a successful startup? That’s a memoir.
  11. Did you try a startup and fail? That too is a memoir.
  12. You could also write a traditional autobiography.
  13. If you take a dup look at your life, you will find memoirs hidden practically every everywhere. School experiences, field trips, job interviews, work experience, travel journeys, chance meatings with old friends, visits to bookshops, cafes, traffic jams, volunteer work, life phases, journeys of the mind with books and movies.

The list is endless but I’ll stop at 13 because it’s a nice number.

I hope thus article gave you a few interesting ideas of how you can write about your life.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll analyze opportunities in my second topic of interest: Journaling & therapeutic writing.



Parag Shah

I write about 'swadharma' and living your truth.