Memoir Archives - Dale Darley

Category Archives for Memoir

Memories make memoir and create inner freedom

Memories can be healing, revealing, scary, upsetting, fun and a whole lot of emotions in-between. Every experience creates a memory in the library of your soul. When you come to write a memoir and walk into that vast room, you may not know where or how to start. Personally, I think that when you start the journey into memoir the most important thing is that you allow. What I mean by that is you allow yourself to wander through the library and enjoy the process of connecting your memories with new eyes. Also allowing whatever needs to arise in the moment.

Often I am confronted with something that triggers a memory, it seems at first disconnected to the memoir, personal story, book or blog that I am writing. And then just like that, it starts to make sense. In that sense making process, I believe that we can create a sense of freedom.

Everything starts from within. Our beliefs about something seem so deeply ingrained, yet when we explore with new eyes and open our hearts to the message that lies beneath we start to liberate ourselves from self-imposed tyranny.

Now I am not saying you will be jumping for joy when you are reminded of events. You may be happy and equally, you may cry. The important thing is that you allow, acknowledge, accept and then take some small action.

Let me give you an example.

Last night I went to a party, nothing unusual in that, it was New Year’s Eve and a time when people like to get together and see in the New Year. Of course, some don’t, preferring the peace of a roaring fire and perhaps dinner and a film.

The music played, people danced, and the DJ opened her deck so that anyone could request a personal song.  There were some songs that I wanted to lose myself in, taking me back to a time when I too would have been on the floor dancing all night.

Two years ago I sustained an injury and stuff like dancing hurts and so to protect myself I don’t. But then a very curious thing happened.

Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs and Woolly Bully came on. And that was it.

Suddenly I was transported back in time to my parent’s parties. I wanted to dance. I asked a friend who wrinkled her nose at my suggestion, and then I was surprised by another friend who I’d thought wasn’t into dancing coming on to the empty dance floor with me. It was wonderful. I wasn’t at this party, I was back as a child twisting and laughing to the music.

When we sat down I told him the story of mum and dad’s parties and how this song made me feel. The conversation meandered into how I’d loved to dance and enjoyed the parties on the RAF camp where we lived. I explained how when the guys I’d danced with discovered who my dad was they freaked. I’d never really understood why. Dad was as far as we knew ‘just’ a fireman.

My tale veered off to a discovery I made last year. I had posted a picture of dad on Facebook. Someone privately messaged me about my dad being a rock ape. Firstly I had no idea what a rock ape was and secondly, I (or mum) hadn’t known he was in the RAF Regiment. When mum and I first discovered this we pondered about how little we had known about my dad. Who was this mysterious man who scared my potential suitors away and who might not have been just a fireman?

Dad RAF Regiment

This morning when out walking this all came flooding back, only now there were other connections popping up.

So let me explain.

Today I start to edit my book Rude Awakenings. It opens with my first awakening – discovering that my then husband was and had been for all of our relationship living a double life. How little I knew about who he really was.

The song last night triggered off thoughts of my childhood and the discovery that potentially my dad was not who he seemed either. My ex-husband was not who he seemed and in my journey which I share in my book, I was looking for the ‘real’ me.

I am reminded that when I edit I must look beneath the stories and memories that make this memoir and to let whatever arises. It seems to me as we enter a new year and full moon, that this is another call from my soul to release more.

You may think you are just writing a memoir, but in effect as you work on your book you are creating a pathway to inner freedom.

For you to ponder…

What is the core message of your memoir?

We always come back to the core message. A memoir is not just a story, there is a learning point or points in every chapter, which comes back to the core message.

In Rude Awakenings I am on a journey to self-love and self-discovery, this is my books core message. However, as a writing coach, the bigger message for me is to inspire you to have the courage to write your book.

Hidden Content

What do you still need to let go of?

When you think about your core message as you write and edit, what else can you learn about you? Are there any fragments that you still need to let go of?

No matter how you feel about your story right now, there will always be something that pops up to remind you to take note. What are those things? Your reader will probably experience stirrings of emotions as they read – what might they be? Our experiences may be similar but how we process them is often different and we each need to find our way. Just take a moment to consider how your reader will feel as they read your book?

Which way does freedom lie?

Writing has always been my saviour. When we step beyond the thinking mind and allow whatever needs to arise come forth then I believe we can find freedom.

Freedom comes from inside. When we allow ourselves to write without limitations, we are telling our souls that its ok for it all to be laid bare. In becoming a witness we can learn so much about who we are.

I say write for freedom and edit for your reader. What I mean is write the memories, flow through and with them. Take the time to explore and adventure with what comes up. When you come to edit, you will know what is for you and what is for your reader.

My invitation today is to ask you to reflect on yesterday. What conversations did you have, where do those thoughts take you? Use the full moon to let go of limitations around writing your memoir.

It’s a new year, a new chapter, and if you could give yourself the freedom to write your memoir, what would it be called?

What is the difference between writing memoir, autobiography and personal story?

People often get confused about writing memoir, autobiography, biography and personal story. In simple terms, personal story is often classified as all of them – memoir, autobiography and biography. For clarity they are:-

  • Memoir is a slice of your life
  • Autobiography is most of your life
  • Personal story is a slice of your life with a learning point

Unless you are famous autobiography is best left until fame and fortune have called. Although, you could write a cradle to grave tome for your family. Typically autobiographies are written about you, rather than by you, as in memoir.

Memoir is a story about you, written by you. It is a slice of your life rather than all of your life. The writer will reflect upon a time of their life and share their experiences with a conclusion of sorts. It’s also a slice of life which has historical value.

For me, though the personal story is much deeper than a memoir slice of life. This is my interpretation of the difference between memoir and personal story, rather an official one. Although, I’m not sure who decides what is official.

A personal story is a way to write about a part of your life that has enabled you to create change, expansion and transformation and is designed to inspire someone else to do something with their life. It is connected to your core message and is often used a part of your personal brand.


  • As a legacy for your family
  • To tell an important story around a historic event

Personal story

  • A story around a central point (e.g. your personal growth, journey to self-love, confidence and self-worth)
  • As a way to heal and heal others
  • As part of a self-help book – you share story and tips
  • An important human story that highlights the need for social change
  • A part of your life that links very clearly to your core message and personal brand

Who are you writing your personal story for?

Work out who your ideal reader is. This may sound obvious, however, there are different things to consider when writing a memoir or personal story. Personal story will be linked to your core message and your business and therefore knowing who you want to inspire is vital. You will want to use your book to create other products and services.

Remember that you are a change maker and not just a memory keeper

You hold an important role, you have memories and experiences that need to be shared. It is by sharing your deeply emotional personal story that others can make meaning. When they know that they are not alone, they too can make meaning. Stories are the backbone of humanity and we have a responsibility to help each other to grow and the planet to heal.

All stories, memoir, autobiography, biography and personal story are all equally important. Choose the outcome you want before you start writing and get writing.

Fun writing prompts to kickstart your personal story

Often when you are stuck and feel blighted with the dreaded writer’s block, the best thing to do is take time out and write about something else. This is when writing prompts help to stimulate your juices.

Writing prompts – A little bit about you

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is your story?
  3. Why are you writing your memoir?
  4. What is the most important thing you want to discover?
  5. What are the life experiences that make you who you are?
  6. If you were to view your life from an outsider’s point of view, what would you know about your life?

Like all exercises, it is best not to think, but to just write.


How many I am words or statements can you write? You are NOT allowed to use NOT….

  1. I am kind, caring, intelligent, fun etc…

When you have written them down, try Wordle ( Copy the words in and play around, print out and turn into a picture. Then frame your drawing and put it up where you can see it every day. Looking at your framed artwork, what does it tell you about who you think you are?

Write a character sketch of that person as if it were a stranger.

When you write a memoir, you need to bring your characters alive and let your reader really see inside of them and feel their personality and understand what makes them tick.

Writing prompts – Photos

Photos are an incredibly powerful way to kick-start your memory. Photos are treasures, moments of your life captured, milestones, birthdays, happy, sad, people long gone, parties you enjoyed, trips, holidays, houses, beaches, there is so much to be captured from your photos and it is not just the picture, it is everything around the photo and as such a brilliant way to help you to piece together your life.

The photo journey

Pick a photo, any photo and ask yourself these questions:-

  1. What were you wearing?
  2. Who were you with?
  3. Where were you?
  4. How old were you?
  5. What happened that day?
  6. What happened the day before / day after?
  7. What sounds, smells, and emotions does this bring up?
  8. What else does this memory conjure up?
  9. Describe the place where the photograph was taken.
  10. Describe the other people in the photograph and their relation to you.
  11. What happened right before this photograph was taken? After?
  12. What surprises you about this picture, now that you really look at it?
  13. Who is missing from this picture? Why?
  14. What can’t we see in the picture?
  15. If that person in the picture could talk, what would he or she be saying?

Visualise meeting you from a photograph

Get a recent photograph of yourself. Place the photograph in front of you now answer these questions. Looking at that person:-

  1. What do you see?
  2. What are you wearing?
  3. What colours do you have on?
  4. What is the style of your clothing, are you dressed for business or leisure?
  5. What is your hairstyle like, your facial expression?
  6. Who else is in the picture with you?
  7. Now imagine that you have never met yourself, write a few paragraphs about the person in the picture. Who do you think they are?

Paint a picture

It is quite fascinating about how we perceive ourselves not only through our thoughts and words but through pictures we take or draw.

You may not feel like an artist and a stick man or woman will do. Get your pencils or crayons out and start drawing yourself. The drawing can be a combination of colours, words and pictures cut from magazines. You can choose some words to describe yourself and make a piece of art around that.

Writing prompts – Questions to ask the family

  1. Where and when was I born?
  2. What was your pregnancy like?
  3. What was the birth like?
  4. How did you feel when you saw and held me for the first time?
  5. What were your expectations for my life?
  6. Were there any foods I hated or loved?
  7. Who did I play with?
  8. What was my favourite toy?
  9. What was my first word?
  10. How did I react when my brothers or sisters were born?
  11. How did they react to me?
  12. How old was I when I took my first steps?
  13. Who was the first best friend I brought home?
  14. Who was my first boyfriend?
  15. What did you think of him?
  16. What did I say I wanted to be when I grew up?

The day you were born sketch

Despite the fact that you weren’t aware of the day you were born, write one side of A4 about what it was like for your mother to give birth to you. Or write about another person who was at the birth. What did they see, feel, smell, touch etc.

Have fun and do let me know what you uncovered about your personal story while you were focusing on something else.