A friend recently gifted me a copy of Laura Tremaine’s Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First.: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level. Each chapter of the book begins with an essay about Laura’s life through the lens of a particular theme: pivotal decisions, belonging, magical moments, breaking points, etc. The close of each chapter includes a writing prompt on the same topic.
The book is a quick read (or listen), and while the writing wasn’t exactly profound, I was incredibly inspired by the prompts and overall layout of the book. By covering just 10 themes, Laura manages to share the highlights of her life to date and paints a vivid, even complex, picture of herself. By the end, you truly feel like you know her.
About halfway through the book, a lightbulb went off. If I took the time to sit down and explore all of these writing prompts, I, like Laura, could have a pretty thorough personal memoir to show for it. I’ve considered writing down my story before, but I’ve been intimidated by the process. But 10 chapters? With themes that have already been decided for me? I could start now, tackle one theme a month and have a full memoir written by December. Now that feels doable.
I do have to admit that it’s not quite that simple. There’s nothing particularly dazzling about each chapter of Laura’s book, but there is something dazzling in the way they marry to tell a full story. At face value, it comes across as simple and straightforward, but I suspect that a lot of thought went into chapter order, which stories she selected and how she ensured continuity without being redundant.
One of my most treasured projects over the past year has been writing a tribute book about my grandmother who passed away in 2020. She developed dementia over the last few years of her life, and when symptoms appeared, I sat down with her for a series of interviews about her life. I asked her everything I could imagine, wrote it down and collected photos and recipes to accompany the text. I began designing the book in 2014 (!) and finally had the first draft printed last month. This book will be treasured by so many members of my family as well as future generations. I wrote it down exactly as she said it, so the stories are in her voice. As a result, I can hear her in all of the pages. It is one of my most valued possessions.
Writing down your stories is both a tribute to yourself and also a therapeutic process. I can’t wait to see what old memories surface and what I learn about myself along the way. If this resonates with you, I hope you’ll try it, too. Let’s get writing!