How to Write Your Memoir with Fun, Easy Lists

The exact steps I took to write my award-winning memoirs

Cyndy Etler | Teen Coach | Author

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Hand holding a piece of glass reflecting an eye and eyebrow.
Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

So you’ve got this life, and it’s an interesting one. It’s taught you a few things, and you’d like to share them with the rest of us. An itchy voice is playing on repeat in your brain: “You need to write a memoir!”

I had that itch, and I scratched it. The result? My self-published memoir landed me on NPR. Then it got me an agent, a two-book publishing deal, and multiple awards. Fast forward a few years and I’ve earned out my advance and Hollywood came calling. And it all started with a humble list.

Nice for me, but how does this help you? You’ve got decades of memories; where would you even start? I got you, boo. My step-by-step process will guide you through organizing and writing your memoir with a series of fun, easy lists.

1. Get your mind right.

Before we tackle our first list, we need to discuss mindset. In today’s hyper-stimulating culture, we feel the constant thrum of panic. We rely on lists to create calm from our mental chaos. So this mandate might seem counterintuitive, but to complete this process, you must let your brain run free and allow yourself to unleash chaos on the page. We’ll pull the diamonds from the soil later and use them to create your memoir’s outline.

Here’s what to do: give yourself permission to write your lists with quick, uncensored bullet points. Don’t let your brain ask questions. Don’t let it ban you from writing “those” things. You’re going to gush out each thought in the order and style it comes to you, and keep writing until there are no more pictures in your head. Did you shut all of your mental filters down? Okay, let’s write.

2. Create a big list of memories.

Our first assignment is fun and freestyle: you’re going to list every memory that comes to mind. Remember, trust yourself. The memories that pop up now will be the memories you’re meant to write about now. As an example, here’s a short version of my list.

  • Gross PB & honey sandwiches
  • First cig town pool
  • “Motivating”
  • “Baby We Can Do It”

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Cyndy Etler | Teen Coach | Author

Locked up & homeless as a teen. Now teaching resiliency & hope with my YA memoirs & teen coaching. Seen on CNN, HuffPost, NPR, CBS, ABC. www.cyndyetler.com