A memoir is a personal account of your life, an experience, or anything that shapes you into the person you are today. There are a lot of examples of some of the best memoirs out there, but have you ever considered writing your own?
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There are no rules when it comes to writing your own memoir. You can choose any topic you’d like, and there are no restrictions on how you write your life story. This is a great writing exercise for students, older adults, and everyone in between.
By taking the time to write about an experience that matters to you, you also do a lot of self-reflection. This could shine a light on how you want to be remembered, your legacy, and any changes you’d like to make in your life.
There are so many important things you’ll recognize only once you begin writing. Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, here are 30+ memoir topic ideas and tips for choosing the right one for you.
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Personal Memoir Topic Ideas
A personal memoir is something that’s meaningful for you. This could be an interesting event, a life-changing moment, or even just a bit of internal reflection. Again, there are no rules. Let these ideas be your guide.
Ideas for middle school and high school students
A memoir is an excellent writing exercise for students in middle school and high school. Though these students might not have a lot of life experience, they still have unique perspectives on the world. Capturing these ideas in writing is worth its weight in gold.
1. A major life event
We all experience major life events, even as children. What major life event defines your life, and how can you grow from it? It could be a transition from middle school to high school, a parent’s divorce, or even a vacation. These are the memories that define who we are.
2. Your favorite place
Where do you find the most comfort? Is it at home in your bedroom or outside somewhere special? Why does this space have so much meaning for you, and how do you spend your time here? Share an experience you’ve had here.
3. Your best day
Best days might not come around all that often, but they sure are memorable when they do. Share one of the best days you’ve ever had, who you were with, and what you did. What made this moment so special?
4. Favorite food
Food is one of the things that bind people together. What food speaks the most to you, and why does it have such an important place in your heart? What does food mean within your family?
5. Favorite teacher
Teachers impact the way we think, and their role transcends the classroom. Who was your most memorable teacher? What stood out about them, and how do you work hard to make them proud?
6. Favorite book
Everyone has a book they’ve read that stuck with them. Humans share who they are through stories. Like the memoir itself, this book plays a role in who you’ve become. What book is your favorite, and what does it mean to you?
7. Most prized possession
This topic is like show-and-tell in written form. What item do you hold in the highest esteem? Is it a beloved shirt or a prize from a sporting event? Where do you keep this item, what does it look like, and what place does it hold in your heart?
8. Your favorite class or subject
No matter your feelings about school, there are bound to be some classes or subjects that stood out to you. What inspired you about these lessons? What have you learned, and how will you use these teachings moving forward?
Who are your closest friends? When did you become friends, and what keeps you close? Exploring these relationships in a memoir is a wonderful tribute to those who matter the most.
10. Favorite holiday
Holidays have a lot of meaning around the world. Which holidays matter the most to you? What do these say about your family, culture, and personality? What is your favorite way to celebrate?
Ideas for college students
College students are at a defining moment in their lives. They have a lot of responsibility, but they’re not quite on their own in the “real world” just yet. This is the perfect transition point for some reflection through a memoir.
11. Major or focus
In college, most students define a major or area of study. What major did you choose, and what significance does this have for you? Where do you see yourself in a few years using this major?
12. First love or friendship
We’ll never forget our earliest relationships. Share a time when you fell in love or had a close friendship. What did this relationship mean to you? How did you feel in the moment, and how do you feel now?
While this might sound odd, a common writing exercise is to write your own obituary. An obituary or death announcement is a way to share your legacy on the world. Though you hope to have many happy years ahead, what do you want to include in your obituary?
What is your most memorable travel experience? From spring break with friends to family holidays in nearby cities, the places we experience often define us. What have you learned from your journeys both near and far?
If you’re no longer in your hometown, reflect on what this means to you. Was your hometown somewhere to escape from or to? How has moving away for college affected your relationship with this place?
Describe an experience of loss. Whether you lost someone you love, a pet, or even just a favorite sweater, we all experience these feelings in our own ways. What does loss mean to you?
Talking to our grandparents is one of the best ways to bridge gaps between generations. Talk to your grandparents about their experience in college or at your age. How does this compare to your own experience?
18. First job
What was your first job like? When did you receive your first paycheck, and what did this experience mean to you? If you’ve never worked a “real” job, what do you imagine it will be like? Describe a volunteer, academic, or professional experience.
19. Future you
Write a memoir from the perspective of your future self. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 20 years? How will this version of yourself look different? What will they have accomplished?
Though difficult to write about, it’s important to reflect on our weaknesses just as much as our strengths. Have you ever failed in your life? How did you move on from this, and what did you learn along the way?
Ideas for older adults
As someone with more life experience, there’s a lot of room to reflect as an older adult. Here are some ideas to get those creative juices flowing as you drift down memory lane.
How exactly do you want to be remembered by friends and family? What have you accomplished that you’re most proud of, and how will this affect your legacy?
What is your favorite hobby? Describe your experience learning this hobby and becoming a part of the culture. How does it affect your day-to-day life?
23. Life’s passion
While most people have a variety of passions, try to define a single, key passion that defines your life. Limiting it to one helps you focus on what matters most.
24. Historical event
Have you witnessed any historical events? Things like national disasters, wars, rights movements, and so on are all once-in-a-lifetime experiences. How did they affect you, and what is your perspective on these happenings?
25. Paradigm shift
Was there ever a moment where your point of view changed drastically? Did it stem from someone, something, or a single experience? Describe this moment.
26. Trip abroad
If you’ve traveled abroad, write about your experience in a new place and surrounded by an unfamiliar culture. What do you remember the most? What lessons did you take with you back home?
What is your relationship with change? Is it something you welcome with open arms or run from? Evaluate how your relationship with change has adapted over time.
28. Built a home
What does “home” mean to you? Is it the place you grew up or somewhere you built for yourself? Define what home means to you and how you’ve built your own home life.
While your career isn’t everything, it does say something about you and the life you lead. How has your career affected your life, and what doors has it opened or closed?
30. Life story
Finally, consider sharing your entire life story. If you’re not sure where to start, try the beginning. Each of us has a story to tell, no matter how big or small.
Tips for Choosing the Best Memoir Topic
There are no one-size-fits-all questions for sparking your memoir topic. Follow these tips below to find the right fit for you.
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Writing time and experience
Before you begin, consider how much time you have to dedicate to writing. While writing your life story might be a great goal, this should only be attempted if you have the time to follow through. Otherwise, choose something with shorter writing requirements like sharing an experience.
Brainstorm before you begin
If you’re not sure where to start, simply start brainstorming or journaling. Often you’ll find the answer in what you write here. What are you drawn to most naturally? Where do your thoughts focus the most? This is where your story lies.
Choose multiple topics
There are no rules that you only have to stick to one memoir topic. You could write a series of essays that discuss many of the topics above. There is no need to worry about them fitting together perfectly. Life isn’t a highlight’s reel. It’s raw and imperfect, and that’s okay.
Tips for Starting Your Memoir
Sometimes, the hardest part about starting a memoir is just that: getting started. While you need to have a solid overarching story, you also need to make a strong impression on readers early on. Like all forms of writing and craftsmanship, this process can be intimidating.
The good news is it’s okay to be messy, to make mistakes, and to figure it out as you go. For inspiration, follow these tips for starting your memoir.
Start with action
While it’s tempting to start your memoir off with backstory or context, this doesn’t necessarily draw readers into the story. Instead, begin in the middle of the action. There will always be time for context and further explanations later.
Engage your audience in the work from the first moment, grabbing the reader’s attention. Whether you begin at an important decision-making moment, on a trip abroad, or wrapped in a moment of passion, make every inch of the page count.
Treat your reader like a friend
Spilling your truth on the page is no easy feat. Because a memoir is your own story, it’s normal to feel anxiety about letting these feelings out from deep inside. One helpful tip for starting your memoir is to treat the reader like a trusted friend.
This is someone you confide in regularly, and you know you can trust them. They won’t meet you with judgment or confusion. They’re just present in the moment, listening to what you have to share. When you place your trust in the reader, they feel that trust as well.
Borrow from fiction writers
While you don’t want to borrow elements of stories, borrow writing techniques from your favorite fiction writers. Who said nonfiction had to read like a textbook? The best memoirs all tell a story creatively, relying on traditional fiction techniques to paint the narrative.
Just like with fiction, create a structure for your story. This includes a strong opening, middle, climax, and resolution. Even a truthful memoir needs a clear course for readers to follow. Take inspiration from other memoirs, fictional stories, and the tales that inspire you. What can you learn from other authors?
Write for yourself
Most importantly, write for yourself. Writing your own memoir can be a healing process. When you write your own stories, even if they’re never shared, you let go of this weight inside ourselves.
While you shouldn’t look exclusively inward, don’t focus so much on the reader that you lose sight of yourself. Invite your reader into these real-life moments. Let them exist inside them for a little while, even if it’s only on borrowed time.
Above all, write the story you have to tell. Everyone has something inside of them that wants to be let out. Your memoir is an opportunity to share that truth with a blank page, even if this is something you don’t share with others.
Start Writing Your Memoir
There’s nothing holding you back from writing your memoir. As long as you’re willing to put the words to paper, you can get started today. You don’t need any formal training or writing experience to get started. Memoirs are written by people from all backgrounds and walks of life.
You don’t need to worry about your story being “good enough” or “exciting enough.” A true story is a worthy story, no matter how it’s told. Let these 30+ topics above be your guide. From there, the page is yours to explore.