Friday, January 05, 2007

Keisha's Question


Thanks so much for stopping by the site. I'm alerting my other writers of you your question: how do I begin my autobiography?

I'm "moodling" over your question and will post my response in a day or so. (BTW "Moodling" is a word I learned today from another writer who learned it from a mentor: Moodling to mull over your thoughts in preparation for writing-- an important part of the work of the writer which to non-writers looks like you're sitting around doing nothing. Next time a non-writer types accuses of laziness, daydreaming or general sloth, reply politely, but firmly, "I'm moodling. Back off and let me think."


At 7:30 PM , Anonymous Jude said...

There are many ways to aproach the question "How do I start my autobiography?". First off, just asking the question means there must be events in your life that prompt that so I would suggest first thinking about the most important events to you that you feel mark your life, what leads up to them, and the outcome. Time-lining these events is also a good way of brainstorming and building up the bone structure before you get to actually assembling the body.
As for actually starting the autobiography it could start with a scene in later life and back-track or the opposite. Or It could be a narration and first give a reader a feel of the characters (mainly yourself) before it heads into your life story.

At 8:38 AM , Blogger Sheela Wolford said...

Perhaps I can best explain my approach my stating what a person SHOULDN'T do, since I have more experience there.

1) Don't think every word has to be magic.
2) Don't think you should scrap the whole thing and start over.
3) Don't hold back on real events (even if it's going to get your family mad).
4) Don't put the paper down and give up.
5) Don't expect it to flow out perfectly the first time.

Now, let me try, as I am trying now at the age of 51, to approach how to start:

1) Give thanks that you have the gift of writing and you have not rejected it.
2) Take a long walk every day and let your ideas "moodled" their way to you.
3) Read at some point every day.
4) Stay aware of your work as you are doing other work and JOT it down when it comes to you.
5) Speak honestly in the moment.
6) Do a free write at the beginning or morning pages to censor the critic in your head.
7) Don't show anyone until you are FINISHED. (This is the Stephen King approach and I believe in him.)
8) Rewrite, revise after you've let your Ideal Reader (someone you trust as a writer and reader) read it. Listen to their comments.
9) Edit and rework as much as YOU THINK it needs it.
10) Now look for an agent.

Lastly, a few semesters ago, I followed another teacher's lesson plan for memoir writing and in it she gave a lesson developed by a Native American and I found this exercise very helpful. Here it is:

Take your life and divide it into four equal parts of your age. For example, if you are 25, divide your life from birth to six, six to 12, 12 to 18, and 18 to 25. These are the four seasons of your life. Within each of those seasons start writing. You can ask yourself pointed questions and answer each in those periods and then pull out the story for your autobiography. I agree with Jude in thinking about the MOST important events that mark your life. Maybe the seasons can be the bone structure he writes about.

Whatever you do, do it with gusto and heart. If you don't have the heart to write about your life, no one will want to read it. Finally, when you get bored and start rambling, shut the notebook or file and take a walk.

It's moodling time.

At 10:57 AM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...


I no longer feel compelled to write the magic words that will
transform the blank page into the first for your autobiography.

As for me, I just write and one image leads to the next; one character creates another.

It's a kind of alchemy I can't explain.

Fortunately Jude and Sheela have answered your question in more earthly, comprehensible terms.

I suggest you read their responses over a couple times and then take the plunge!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home