These prompts first appeared in The Journal Newsletter.
Memoir Prompt – Autobiography. If you had 15 minutes to tell someone who you are, what would you tell them?
Memoir Prompt – “Who’s Aunt Sally?” Create a family directory, or a family tree which includes information about each person’s life. A short paragraph listing occupation, interests, and relation to you can be sufficient. Or you could create a “questionnaire” for family members to fill out. Questionnaires could relate to specific events, people, themes, and be shared at family gatherings.
Memoir Prompt – What do you enjoy about your life?
Memoir Prompt – Record the history of items you consider to be family heirlooms. The heirloom doesn’t have to be valuable, so long as it is important to the family.
Memoir Prompt – Write about a childhood family tradition. Write about your current traditions and the thoughts that you want to convey through them.
Memoir Prompt – Answer the following: Do you have a mentor? Are you a mentor for someone? Tell about your relationship.
Memoir Prompt – Write a list of “firsts” (i.e. first time you drove a car, first employment, etc.) Select a few and write about how you felt about what happened.
Memoir Prompt – Write about the places you have lived. Think about what was unique about each and reflect upon your life at the time.
Memoir Prompt – Catalog your souvenirs and mementos. How did you come across these items and why are they meaningful to you?
Memoir Prompt – Write about your memories of summer.
Memoir Prompt – If you were to assemble a time capsule of your entire life, what items would you select or make reference to? Reflect on things you have done and events that have happened in your lifetime.
Memoir Prompt – Write about a person that you love.
Memoir Prompt – Write about your religious tradition (or lack of religious tradition) growing up. Continue by writing what you believe in your life today and the personal philosophy you live by.
Memoir Prompt – Write a recollection about a friendship you had at some point in your life.
Memoir Prompt – Write about three people that you have lost contact with. Write first about your relationship with each. Continue the exercise by writing about why, or if, you would like to reconnect with that person again.
Memoir Prompt – Write a summary of your parents’ life thus far.
Memoir Prompt – What were your childhood pastimes?
Memoir Prompt – Did you grow up with pets? Write about a specific memory.
Memoir Prompt – Write about an event or time that you made a deliberate change for yourself. Write about what motivated you to make the change, and how you think that change has affected your life.
Memoir Prompt – 1. Do you know how your grandparents met? Find out and write about the story.
2. Write about a job that you had which you either learned a great deal from, or which you dreaded. Write in a narrative form.
Memoir Prompt – 1. Write about an employment that you had which you either learned a great deal from, or which you dreaded. Write in a narrative form.
2. Write thoughts prompted by your high school yearbook.
Memoir Prompt – Write the story of how you came by your scars. Be sure to describe the scars, including their locations.
Memoir Prompt – How do you celebrate birthdays in your family? Write about past traditions and current ones. Write about your feelings about past birthdays. Is there a specific birthday that stands out in your memory? As you get older what will be most significant to you?
Memoir Prompt – Write about three people who have influenced your life the most.
Memoir Prompt – Write about the things that you enjoy most and are most passionate about. Do you feel that you devote enough time to each?
Memoir Prompt – Write about your memory of a pleasant time with one or both of your parents.
Memoir Prompt – Describe what your typical day as a child was like. Pick a period of your childhood like pre-school or elementary school, or a particular age like 4 or 6.
Memoir Prompt – Describe how you stayed in touch with your loved ones before you got a cellphone and/or email. Do you talk to them more now, or less?
Memoir Prompt – If you attended college, talk about how you decided on your college major. Were you influenced by your parents? Future job prospects? A guy/girl you liked? Even if you didn’t go to college, talk about what influenced your life after high school.
Memoir Prompt – Where did you go during summer vacations as a child? How did those vacations compare to what you wanted to do at the time? And how do those vacations compare to the vacations you take now?
Memoir Prompt – Were you ever in a contest or competition? What prompted you to participate? What made the experience meaningful to you?
Memoir Prompt – Write about a school trip or a camp that you attended.
Memoir Prompt – Write about how you felt the first time you were fired from a job or had to quit.
Memoir Prompt – Write about any unexpected opportunities that came up this year. Are there specific things that you had done prior to the opportunity that made it possible, or allowed for you to act upon it?
Memoir Prompt – Have you ever received something from a contest or giveaway? Try to recall all the things that you have “won” and what you did with your winnings.
Memoir Prompt – Write about why you decide to date/ marry the person you are dating/married to.
Memoir Prompt – Write about the clubs or organizations you were a member of when you were in school.
Memoir Prompt – Write about the your high school/college graduation.
Memoir Prompt – 1. Write about your current family relationships.
2. Write about a career negotiation that you have experienced.
Memoir Prompt – Describe how your life was affected by a war that occurred in your lifetime.
Memoir Prompt – Write about your current projects and what you are accomplishing right now.
Memoir Prompt – Has any one in your family suffered from a chronic illness? Write about your experience. Consider interviewing the person about their experience with living with illness.
Memoir Prompt – Write about your plan for your “elder years”. Also, what are your wishes about your funeral arrangements?
Memoir Prompt – What are the different ways you’ve celebrated the New Year throughout your life? Do you have a traditional way you celebrate New Years with your friends and family? How has that tradition changed over the years?
Memoir Prompt – Everyone goes through hard times. Write about one of the hard times of your life. Write about how you overcame the hard time (or didn’t).
Memoir Prompt – Have you ever served on a jury? Describe your experiences and emotions as you learned the process of the trial, heard testimony, and deliberated on the verdict. Did you change your mind as the trial unfolded? Were you swayed by the evidence? Or the arguments of the lawyers?
Memoir Prompt – Did you live in the same house throughout your childhood? Or, like me, did you move around a lot? List the places you remember living as a child. Do you have any special memories (good or bad) from each house you lived in?
Memoir Prompt – Have you ever attended a school or class or military reunion? Write about the experience of seeing people you once knew well but haven’t talked to in years. Were they the same people now as then? Were you? Did you find yourself falling back into your old role from that time period?
Memoir Prompt – Describe the biggest and/or most important project you worked on for an employer. How long ago was that? Is the final product still in use?
Memoir Prompt – Describe the times you have voted, either at the local, state or national level, when your vote meant the most to you. What was at stake? Did you win or lose?
Memoir Prompt – What holiday family traditions have you inherited from your parents (or your spouse’s parents)? What holiday traditions did you create on your own (even if by accident)?
Memoir Prompt – Tell about major storms you and your family have survived. What season was the storm? How did the season affect how you managed? Was it unbearably hot or cold? Did your neighbors help you? Did you help your neighbors? How did the storm and its aftermath affect your life from then on?
Memoir Prompt – What did you drink as a child? Tea? Coffee? Milk? Juice? Kool-aid? How did your drinking habits change as you grew up? Do certain drinks remind you of specific times in your life? What are the most exotic beverages you’ve sampled?
Memoir Prompt – Do you have any friends you’ve known since elementary school? High school? College? Previous jobs? Have you stayed in touch all that time? Or did you have some periods “off and on”?
Memoir Prompt – Write about your more most memorable spring break and spring vacation.
Memoir Prompt – Describe the types (and quantity) of souvenirs have you collected throughout your life. From vacations, trips, jobs, relationships, anything. Which souvenirs do you still have?
Memoir Prompt – Tell about your most interesting/intriguing/infuriating encounter in an elevator.
Memoir Prompt – List the books you most remember reading through your life. Was it the book itself, or your circumstances at the time you read it, that make it so memorable?
Memoir Prompt – How did you spend the 4th of July this year? (Or some other summer holiday if you live outside the USA.) Do you have any special traditions you try to follow in your celebration or remembrance?
Memoir Prompt – Tell about the time you won the lottery. Or maybe it was just a raffle or a door prize. Have you ever been *really* lucky? That is, through no skill or choice of your own, you came out way ahead?
Memoir Prompt – “Where were you when … ?” Have you witnessed any national or large-scale tragedies? Describe where you were and what you were doing when you learned the news. Describe what you first thought and how you felt. What do you remember most?
Memoir Prompt – Have you ever run for public office? Why or why not?
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of the books you read (or movies you watched; or music you listened to) for the first time this year. The books (or movies or music) don’t have to be new in 2008, just new to you.
Memoir Prompt – What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you? Have you ever discussed it with anyone?
Memoir Prompt – Describe the food you ate as you grew up (breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, potluck, snacks, etc). Did your meals fit a particular cuisine (American “Southern”, New England, Mexican, Italian, Asian, etc) or a blend? How does what you eat now differ from then?
Memoir Prompt – What cars (or trucks or motorcycles or …) have you owned? Did you buy them new or used? Did you have to repair or rebuild any part of it? Did you name your car? Why? Which car do you think was the most “you”?
Memoir Prompt – List (and describe) the top 5 musical concerts or events you’ve attended.
Memoir Prompt – List the computers you’ve owned or worked with (or played with) in your life. Do you remember any of them more vividly (fondly or unfondly) than others? Tell why.
Memoir Prompt – Have you ever been robbed? What kind of robbery was it? How did it change your life (or did it have no lasting impact)?
Memoir Prompt – What’s your most interesting coincidental meeting/encounter?
Memoir Prompt – List the toys you remember having as a child.
Memoir Prompt – Is your luggage better traveled than you are? I once flew to Australia while my luggage flew to England. Write about the humorous (at least in retrospect) mishaps that have occurred in your own travels.
Memoir Prompt – How have the household chores you do (or delegate) changed in your lifetime?
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of what you have in mini-storage. Or in your attic. Then go check the list against what’s really there, creating a new list if necessary. Keep both copies.
Memoir Prompt – What is your favorite, “go to” cooking recipe? Is it from a cookbook? How has the recipe evolved over the years you’ve been using it?
Memoir Prompt – List the friends you remember from the various stages of your life: grade school, junior high, high school, college, work.
Memoir Prompt – Inventory your kitchen collection of pots, pans and skillets. Are any of them hand-me-downs? What’s their story? Which one is your favorite?
Memoir Prompt – Collect/scan old photos to create a visual record of your hair styles throughout your life. It’s the only way future generations will believe you. =)
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of the pets you’ve had in your life, both as a child and as an adult. If you have pictures, include them. Write the first memory that comes to mind about each pet.
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of the games you played as a child, as a teenager, and (if you’re like me) as an adult. Board games, video games, card games, any kind of game at all. Which games have you played the longest? Are the games the same now as they were then? If there are newer editions/versions, have you played them?
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of your favorite stuffed animals, starting from when you were child up to the present. Make a note of who gave you which ones, if you remember, or how they came into your life. Include pictures if you have them. Did you give them away? Do you still have them?
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of all the in-laws whose names you can remember. If you can’t remember their name, at least list how they became related to you “in law.”
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of the electronic devices you’ve owned, from car phones to cell phones, from personal digital assistants to tablets to ebook readers, and so on. Were you an early adopter or a laggardly holdout? How has your acquisition and adoption of new technology evolved over the years?
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of the bills of you currently pay monthly and yearly. Include automatic bank account debits and checks you write and stuff into envelopes. How has your bill paying evolved over the years? What regular bills did you used to pay that no longer apply?
Memoir Prompt – If you’re over a Certain Age, you probably owned a water bed. Admit it. How many? What kind of water bed mattress(es) did you have (and how did your cats like them)? What kind(s) of water bed pedestals/frames?
Memoir Prompt – Covers, reboots, and remakes seem to be happening everywhere. How many songs of your formative years have now been covered by new artists? How many movies that you watched on first release have been remade or rebooted? List them and describe how the new version affected you, good and bad. Did you like new version more than the old? What did the new version improve and/or get wrong, in your opinion?
Memoir Prompt – Do you own a watch? Do you still wear it? Is your watch a timepiece? Or has it become an accessory? Make a list of the watches you’ve been given or purchased over the years.
Memoir Prompt – I keep a green 55mm d20 (a twenty-sided polyhedral die) on my desk as a “fidgit.” I pick it up and toss it back and forth as I think (in fact, I did that just now after I finished this sentence). It’s about the size of a baseball and has a nice heft. I like it, and it’s very much *me* (an old-school dice-and-paper RPG player). What are your favorite fidgits? How did you come to have them handy? Have you lost any over the years that you still miss?
Memoir Prompt – Tell about a time luck played a significant factor in your current career.
Memoir Prompt – Snapshots are seldom great photography. The composition is all wrong. The flash is too strong. She’s not even looking at the camera, and you have an odd expression on your face. But snapshots aren’t about the photo. They’re about the memories (and only secondarily about the proof that, yes, you used to wear that shirt). Select a snapshot and write as much as you can remember about the people in it, what happened just before and what happened after. Where it was taken, where those people are now, and anything that comes to mind from seeing the snapshot now.
Memoir Prompt – When I was in junior high, my English teacher made the class keep a journal in a spiral notebook. That was my first journal. It was another ten years before I started keeping a regular journal again, that time using software (Microsoft Word for Windows 2.0). How many ways have you kept a journal or diary? Stenographers notebooks? Leather bound volumes? Various types of software? Do all those journals still exist?
Memoir Prompt – Make a list of the trade conferences and conventions you’ve attended as part of your job(s). What do you remember about any particular conference? Did you learn something valuable? Who did you meet that you still know? What was the most interesting bit of “swag” you were given by a hopeful vendor?
These Writing Exercises are a collection of prompts originally published in The Journal Newsletter. The prompts include journaling prompts, prose prompts, poetry prompts, free writing prompts, and memoir prompts.
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The exercises are updated each month, after the newsletter is published.
Unless otherwise specified, all prompts Copyright © by Susan Michael and David Michael.