If you’re writing a memoir, you know the process can be mysterious and intimidating. My advice? Tell yourself you’re only writing a rough draft—for your eyes only—and then keep writing.
“Write with the door closed,” suggests Stephen King. “Your stuff starts out being just for you.…” (On Writing)
“The first draft is the child’s draft,” writes Anne Lamott, “where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and you can fix it up later.…” (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)
“Small steps are better than no steps,” says Victoria Costello.
“Writing memoir might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.… Feeling overwhelmed comes with the territory.… When you feel that sinking feeling, remember that a memoir is simply a string of personal vignettes. Take small steps and focus on finishing one sentence, one paragraph, and one vignette at a time. Worry about threading the story together later. (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Memoir; emphasis mine)
Yes, eventually you will fix up your rough draft: you will revise, reorganize, and rewrite. Every writer does. It’s not punishment. It’s polishing and shining and clarifying for the sake of your readers.
For now, don’t worry about polishing. Just take the small steps, “one sentence, one paragraph, and one vignette at a time.”