All right. By this time, you have wallowed in your boxes of memories, started taking notes, concluded that you need a consistent note-taking software, platform or notebook.
Now what? As in, what do you do with all those notes?
Easy. Make lists.
- Chronology — Your most important list. Everything flows from this. Everything refers back to this. Your memoir does not have to follow this religiously, but you must have it and know that you can rely on it. That is, you know everything on it is true and accurate, to the best of your knowledge and ability.
- Names — What? Who needs a list of names? You can remember the name of every person you’ve ever met. Fine. Keep the list anyway. And make sure you know that it’s Aunt Ida, not Aunt Ada. Or in my case, Aunt Bernice. Only in my case there were two Aunt Beas, both with the same last name. One was Big Aunt Bea, because my mother’s aunt was older and larger than Little Aunt Bea, my mother’s sister who was also called Ditz. (Don’t go there.)
- Places, otherwise known as maps.
- Books, articles, newspaper clippings, AKA Bibliography.
Why all the lists? Because you can’t remember everything, and you don’t want to even try. You want to rely on your lists.
For that reason, anything that goes into a list must be fact-checked and completely accurate … OR LABELED AS UNVERIFIED.
We will add other lists later, but for now, these are the keys to organizing all those memories.
BTW, this process took me about 42 years with many starts, stops and interregna. That’s why ACCURACY IS KEY. (Yes, I know I’m shouting. I’m doing it because you don’t believe me and aren’t paying attention.) You don’t want to have to go back and start over checking every list entry to confirm that it’s accurate.
In the next step, we start writing. Sort of.