Have you ever had a moment when you sit down to a blank paper or computer screen, ready to write, and then your mind goes blank? You know generally what you want to write about, but you’re not sure where to start. Especially if you’re writing your life story. You’ve lived through a lot. What do you start with? What do you focus on?
Moments like this can discourage even the most experienced writers. But not knowing what to write should never stop you from writing. So what can you do to overcome these mind-blank moments? Here are a few tips from the My Storyographer team on how find something to write about:
Look at photos
If you hit a blank while writing your story, looking at photographers is a fantastic way to jog your memory. They can help you to remember moments you may not have written about yet. Photos can remind you of details that you forgot, like the color of the front door of your childhood home. Looking at photographs can also help you recall the moments surrounding that particular event. For example, I’m looking at photos of my high school graduation, and those photos help me remember what I was feeling going into the last few months before my family moved in August. Use photographs to get the memory gears turning.
Memoir coach and author Marion Roach calls her sister when she experiences writer’s block while writing her story. She called her sister and asked about the kids they rode the bus with. Her sister’s answer reminded Marion of several moments and people in her childhood. Great research, insight, and stories from your life could be one phone call away. Call a sibling, a long time friend, a cousin, or anyone else you shared life with at some point. Ask them questions. The questions could be open- ended and simple (What’s something we did during elementary school?), or they can be specific (What was the movie we watched so many times when we were kids?) A quick phone call can unlock a treasure trove of stories in your mind.
I don’t mean in a physical sense (though that could be helpful, maybe). I mean skipping around while writing about your life. Just because your life has followed a chronological timeline does not mean your writing process has to as well. If you hit a blank while writing about high school, skip to when you met your spouse. No need to dwell on a time in your life that’s giving you writer’s block. It will cause frustration. To keep yourself writing and motivated, write something where the details come easily to your mind. As long as you organize your writing in a way you’ll remember, you can write in any order you want.
Check Out My Storyographer Story Starters
The My Storyographer team is here to equip you with the tools you need to write your story. One of the resources we are continually developing are our Story Starters, a self-interview kit which helps jumpstart your memory and writing. We created sets of questions focused on themes. Some of the themes are family, love life, job experience, and faith. These questions will come with the Tell My Story course module that matches its theme. It’s up to you how much you use these Story Starters. The questions can be answered all the way through, or they can simply be a launch point for your own creativity. Up to you!
All four of these tips can help shake off the struggle with writer’s block and keep writing your story. By continuing to write, even in the midst of writer’s block, you will keep yourself motivated to write your story. Each of these tips can also help you to reconnect with your story. Going through photos or calling old friends are beautiful ways to reflect on your life and how far you’ve come. Your story is worth reflecting on, and your story is worth telling.