For anyone who has urged a parent or other relative to record their memories before it’s too late, or who has considered writing their own memoir, I want to offer suggestions from my own experience.
Family members for years encouraged my parents to write or at least record details of living through the dust bowl days in eastern Colorado, struggling through poverty and hardship to achieve their dream of a ranch in the mountains and then Dad’s calling to be a minister. When Dad knew his time was limited, he started his life story over and over. He was using a word processor, but didn’t understand how to edit the same pages as much as necessary.
Before he died, Mother sent pages and notes, poems and scribbling, pinned together with straight pins, since she was constantly sewing. When I got it pieced together it covered only about the first 20 years of his long life, plus some later poems and a few other incidents.
My first hint would be not to worry about how to start. As I urged Dad, write one story at a time. Start with a vivid memory or a story you have often told.
More later–my own memoir, In Pursuit of Dreams, has just been sent for proofing.