This week I’ve been reading a book on memoir writing by another of my writing gurus, Natalie Goldberg. This book, Old Friend From Far Away, includes many of the gems first introduced in the classic, Writing Down the Bones. Writing practice, mindfulness, walking, first thoughts – all these and more are described for the budding memoirist. There are also pages of ten minute exercises to get you putting pen to paper. Goldberg is a great exponent of what she calls “going for the jugular”, being completely raw when you write, in order to find and develop your voice. Her timed writing exercises aim to put on the pressure so that the writing is less considered, more frantic, but as a result more real.

Writing memoir pieces, even for the fiction writer, can help you recapture memories and feelings that can then be filtered through to your characters and stories. Or you might decide you actually like writing about your own life and keep going.

Here are ten exercises from Goldberg’s book to try, in ten minute bursts:

  • What tortures you and awakens you at night?
  • Tell me everything you know about ice cream.
  • Tell me a memory associated with a bicycle. The spokes, the wheels, the narrow seat.
  • Write about a cup you loved.
  • Write about a time you itched. It could be physical or metaphorical. Go.
  • Tell me about a funny or odd thing that happened in your car.
  • Tell me some details about an uncle or grandfather. Make sure to name the uncle: “I remember Uncle Phil…”
  • Write about a time you slept outside. Go.
  • Where is home for you. Go. Ten minutes.
  • What have you held onto too long?

It’s easy to make up similar topics of your own. Or take a look at any of Goldberg’s books for more inspiration.

Happy Writing!