Step One in writing a memoir is to acknowledge that you have a lot of stuff; you’re not sure where it is or where it will go but you know you have it.
Step Two, start rounding up the stuff.
No — No — No.
That’s all wrong.
Before you start gathering all the stuff, write an outline … on paper … in pencil.
I recommend paper so you don’t wear out your backspace key. Or your printer’s ink cartridge.
The outline for this puppy is going to change a hundred times … the first day.
Okay, so BEFORE you outline, just jot down ideas … in no particular order. Stuff you want to remember. Incidents. People. Places. (This jotting down process can be lengthy, and I recommend using a steno pad or a three-ring note binder. The steno pad is easier to carry around.)
My first list went something like this: Memoir … for kids … Laos after expelled from Viet-Nam … draft status … mugged in Bangkok … Hotel Constellation … crotch rot / writing in underwear. WHERE ARE JOURNALS. START THERE.
And so on.
During my 1991 effort to organize things, I compiled my handwritten lists and typed them into a computer file named “Elements.” The header for the file read “EVERYTHING THAT COUILD POSSIBLY GO INTO THE BOOK.” That file was later subsumed into a file named “Plan,” and on it went.
I believe in wallowing. Just soaking up information and generating impressions. I keep doing it until I get bored. Then I stop and try to find something constructive to do. Or move on to another project.
So, Step No. 1 to writing a memoir is to wallow in information, impressions, and sensations. Also, alcohol.
(To be continued.)