How To Write a Memoir During Lockdown

I’ve been enjoying Twitter these last few weeks. I have found so much sense there, and positivity. Not blind positivity, but a cheeriness, kindness, love and a desire to support one another. Of course we curate our own Twitter feeds by choosing the people we follow. And not that this has inoculated me from the suffering. I wouldn’t want to be hidden from it. I am in a fortunate position living where I do, near the beach in a lovely home, with a husband whose company I enjoy and two rescue dogs we adore. So I want to know what’s really happening in the world and be kind and helpful where I can.

Our new rescue dog, Moose, who turned 1 on March 29th

I have seen tonnes, literally tonnes of tweeps swearing they’ll use lockdown time* wisely. For exercise, healthy eating, decluttering, completing, learning something new. And since I follow lots of writers, lots of people are talking about writing projects – starting them and finishing them. This is great. I’m sure lots of people will do the things or at least some of the things they’ve set out to do.

Our elderly rescue dog, Tippi, who turned 16 on March 29th

What I’ve also seen is more tonnes and tonnes of people offering advice, guidance, teaching, podcasts, online tutorials, videos and classes, many of them paid for – good for them, shaky times for creatives and freelancers – and loads of freebies too. Also lovely. I pondered if I might do something but, even though I don’t think it of others, I worry that folks might think I was jumping on the bandwagon. Plus I’m luckily very busy with my current batch** of authors, using the phone and Skype etc for our chats, and am mentoring writers individually instead of in person in class. Then, last week, I read this article: A letter to the UK from Italy: this is what we know about your future. By Italian novelist Francesca Melandri.

It’s subjective, of course. But these lines really resonated:

“You’ll find dozens of social networking groups with tutorials on how to spend your free time in fruitful ways. You will join them all, then ignore them completely after a few days. You’ll pull apocalyptic literature out of your bookshelves, but will soon find you don’t really feel like reading any of it.” Spot on. I could immediately see why this would be true. I feel that this is not the time for a massive upsurge in motivation. In the last 20 years, I have read more stuff about productivity than I’ve eaten Creme Eggs. Which is a lot. And what I’ve learned is that we can’t make massive drastic changes to the way we are.  If we could, then the majority of us would be exactly who we want to be and doing all the stuff we want to do.




And I definitely don’t think that during a pandemic, when we’re anxious about our health, food, money and our nearest and dearest, is a time when we’re naturally inclined to make loads of lasting change and expend more energy. If you’ve read The Chimp Paradox, which is awesome, you’ll know that our inner chimps (our limbic systems) are probably very triggered right now. The chimp’s ONLY job is to ensure our survival and he will use every weapon in his arsenal to stop us expending what he sees as unnecessary energy on, well, anything beyond survival. He doesn’t give a rat’s tiny behind about your productivity. Not that we can’t learn to overrule him. We can, but it takes time, so much time, and practice. My chimp wants me to eat sugary, fatty food and do no exercise. He doesn’t care that if I do the opposite I’ll live longer. He was formed in a time when thighs like mine were a blessing. I’ve worked out some ways to quiet him down but it doesn’t work all the time.

He’ll also try to stop me writing. To him, writing burns valuable brain calories.

Happy 8th Birthday to one of my great nieces, Talia, whose Mum, Symone, managed to source Colin EVEN during a pandemic, and while working very hard from home caring for the vulnerable in her community

So here’s my memoir writing advice for those who are already writing and for those who are thinking of starting:

  1. Do it if you like
  2. Don’t do it if you don’t like
  3. Don’t do it because you feel you have to
  4. Or because someone else said you should
  5. Or because you saw someone online who said they were going to
  6. If you do much less writing than you normally would, don’t worry
  7. If you do a lot more, great
  8. If your writing really flows, super
  9. If it’s nothing more than scribbles on the back of a receipt, also super – both are valid and will get you to where you want to be
  10. If you do a lot one day then wipe yourself out, rest until you can start again
  11. If you can’t start again, don’t

All creative projects benefit from periods of rest.

And please, whatever you do, do not write about anything traumatic when you don’t have your usual routines and people around to ground you and help you bring your brain back to the present. Do not dig up anything when access to a therapist or other helpful professional might be limited.
That’s it. Yoda said: “Do or don’t do, there is no try.” I say, “Write or don’t write, there is no pressure.”

My nephew Dave Vango (Mashup Cosplay as Judge Mario)

So what can you do during this time? Self care. I’ve been using a facial oil from local-to-me Floragy and more regularly moisturising my body after a bath. I’m as slippery as an eel, albeit one scented with Crabtree and Evelyn. My Mum has been doing the same. She’s been indoors for a month now (heroic) and says she looks 10 years younger. My oldest nephew is finding time to cook healthy meals and indulge in his passion of CosPlay. A friend is having more cuddles with her daughter. And doing Frozen-themed yoga. I know, I thought she said frozen yoghurt too.

I hope that when Covid-19 is gone, some of our self-care habits remain. At 44 and a half, I’m old enough to know that some of it will stick, some of it
won’t. I’m patient with myself. It’s taken me more than 20 years to
develop a #yogaeverydamnday practice. If you’d told me that when I set this intention…

Yoga with Adriene Mishler and her dog, Benji

But anyway, for what it’s worth, that’s my advice. Your story will be there waiting for you when this is over.

A couple of things to share, I hope they nourish you. My love, Tara Brach, meditation teacher (and so much more) has compiled some beautiful meditations and talks, and even guidelines for a home-retreat for Pandemic Care. It’s free, or you can donate if you can afford to. Tank’s Good News. As it sounds. ALL the joy from around the world. The Good News Movement. As above. More love and upliftment. And my yoga girl, Adriene, who finally got me going. Ey-o, as she would say.

Take care, keep safe and look after each other. Warmest wishes, Marnie

*I acknowledge the people like my youngest niece Symone, a care administrator, and my cousin Susan, a student nurse, and two of my best friends who work with charities, those in need both materially and emotionally, and the millions like them in essential roles who definitely do not have more time as a result of Covid-19. Thank you to you all, and others like you.

**Anyone know the plural for authors?

Here is a short interview with me on Radio Kent about writing memoir in a pandemic


  1. John Mahoney on April 1, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Hi Marn’
    Along with your “do or don’t do” and the lessons from The Chimp Paradox
    I can’t help but see a metaphor within the two doggie pictures.

    Moose with boundless energy; exploring, learning and having fun.
    The darling Tippi just content with being gently loved.

    Excellent blog as always
    Love Dodda x

    • Marnie on April 1, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      Oh my goodness, that’s SO true! The dogs are leading the way, bless them. Thanks for reading Uncle Dodda, love you xxx

  2. Amanda June on April 9, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    I loved this Marnie it is so true to take care of ourselves take the pressure off 🙂 great reminder.

    • Marnie on April 10, 2020 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks for reading, Amanda! Much appreciated.

  3. John Mahoney on May 29, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    Hey Marn’ just reread this and it occurs to me that the plural for Authors may play out better as a collective; and maybe the answer is in the question. . . . “A Plural of Authors”

    Love Dodda

  4. Marnie on June 1, 2020 at 11:24 am

    Yes, Dodda! Love that – a plural of authors. Love you xxx

Leave a Comment

Dear Marnie

I had the pleasure of working with Marnie as she carried out a manuscript assessment for my memoir. Marnie was referred to me by Jericho Writers. She’s truly an expert in her field. Marnie’s written feedback to me was valuable, relevant, insightful and very encouraging. She clearly set out the areas that were working and…
Read More

Margaret Davies

With my current health problems, I do feel content and happy that I have been able to write my life story for my loved ones. My grandchildren are very young, but in the years to come they will enjoy and appreciate reading my memoir Darlo Boy. Thank you so much for your assistance Marnie.
Read More

Alan from Walsall

I felt as if Marnie was holding my hand throughout. She wanted to do the very best for me. Her caring and compassionate nature was evident from day one. Apart from being extremely intuitive, her wonderful writing skills seemed contagious and I found myself expressing myself like I had never done before! She gently prised…
Read More

Nic Bolt, A Bit Of A Stir

If you’ve already written your memoirs but need a bit of guidance as well as an experienced memoir checker, then you need look no further.  I contacted Marnie about a memoir  I had already written entitled ‘The Life and Times of a Seminary Kid’ which was a humorous look at five years of my life at…
Read More

Ged Leach

My books have arrived! I am so excited and delighted. You are the best ghostwriter. I felt totally comfortable confiding in you, and your kindness and understanding has helped me come to terms with things that have happened. I am sure you’ve helped a lot of people.
Read More

Christine Temlett

My memoir is written from different points of view. Marnie recommended adding more of my own emotions, that I sew the story together using my voice and feelings as the thread. She is open-minded and encouraged me by understanding the atmosphere I am trying to convey about a sensitive topic that informs the lives of…
Read More

Dorothea Paiva

Working with Marnie was a dream come true! She as so helpful and encouraging with my memoir, we corresponded a year before we started working together and she gave me very helpful advice from the start. We worked together editing my memoir over seven months. Marnie is very patient, understanding and kind, traits that are…
Read More

Amanda June

I found the entire process with Marnie as my ghostwriter to be cathartic in every way. Where I had felt nervous and anxious about putting pen to paper, I found myself feeling optimistic and often excited.
Read More

Sally Woodmansee

I wouldn’t have managed to do it (the launch or the book) without Marnie. If you know the story of Dumbo who thought he could not fly without holding the feather in his trunk, well I call Marnie my feather.
Read More

Jane Bloom

Marnie conducted my interview at the Whitstable Book Festival with skill and sensitivity. She was a good listener and took a genuine interest in her subject. We had a capacity audience for what was a very successful afternoon.
Read More

Terry Waite CBE

Once I had decided that I needed to write a memoir, the next question was: where on earth do I start? I am so grateful that it was Marnie’s website that caught my attention first, as from the very moment I spoke to Marnie, I knew I was in good hands.
Read More

Joanne James

I first met Marnie when she interviewed me at Harbour Books, Whitstable about my book Kill The Black One First – a memoir. I found her a very warm and helpful person. She was very well researched and her questions incisive and pertinent. She certainly helped make the event a success.
Read More

Michael Fuller QPM

Throughout the whole editing process I felt both expertly held and simultaneously challenged to push my memoir to rewarding new heights. Marnie instinctively knows how to inspire with insightful suggestions whilst marshalling disparate strains of thought into cohesive order. My project was particularly exposing on a personal level and Marnie handled everything with extraordinary insight…
Read More

Paul Beech

Although I met you when the book was almost finished, you were a breath of fresh air, who helped me dig deep and bring the suppressed memories to the surface in a couple of the most difficult chapters I had to write.
Read More

Hana Ali

I was delighted when Marnie agreed to provide a workshop for the 2018 Kent Festival of Writing. Zuihitzu, the Japanese art of following the pen, proved a very attractive proposition for our delegates and we were oversubscribed. Neither Marnie or I wanted to turn anyone away, so it was a packed event!
Read More

Sue Bassett

Thank you for your help in making this happen, and for putting Neil’s words together so accurately. We were so pleased that the first draft arrived in time for us to read it as a family to Neil. I know he really enjoyed his couple of days with you. Thank you. Sarah Vines, brother of…
Read More

Sarah Vines

In the run-up weekend to our 2018 festival Marnie hosted a very well attended day of memoir-writing events, beginning with a moving, eloquent discussion in which she talked to author Sarah Pullen about her memoir A Mighty Boy. As an interviewer Marnie is a true professional, asking thought-provoking yet sensitive and heartfelt questions, and putting…
Read More

Amanda Dackombe

My darling, I have read the book from cover to cover out loud. It is a wonderful book. My excitement is so great darling, you’re a star. Let’s write another one! Lady Sandra Bates, seventh bunny at the original Playboy Club, London, and author of How To Be A Kept Woman
Read More

Lady Sandra Bates

It was a pleasure working with Marnie on the Writer’s Weekend. She was approachable, professional and communicative in the lead-up to the event and during the weekend she was wonderful. All delegates commented on her kind manner, her knowledge, and her ability to bring out the best writing in them. I can highly recommend collaborating…
Read More

RedDoor Publishing

While reading your feedback yesterday the hairs were literally standing on my arms because I knew you were the right person to make this manuscript the best it can be…
Read More

Tony Barbieri

A couple of weeks after the Memoir Writing Weekend, I am reflecting on what a difference it has made. For a long while I have had a desire to share my story, I did not have a clue how or where to start. All I knew is that there was at least one story there…
Read More

Rose Smith

All I knew was: I wanted to share my story, write my memoirs. I Googled ghostwriter and Marnie was the first person I contacted. Marnie made such a great first impression that I felt no need to look any further.
Read More

Anthea McCarten

This was a brilliant weekend – way above my expectations. Marnie just knows about memoir and her presentations were superbly focussed and paced. It’s rare to find someone who combines a high level of professional knowledge with the relational skills that make it all work. If you are needing support with your writing, hire this…
Read More

Edna Murdoch

I found Marnie to be such an affable person. Not only that, but she gave me the confidence to finish my memoir.
Read More

Martin Davies

I have been lucky enough to work with Marnie on several occasions where she has interviewed, hosted and compèred events I have been managing. Marnie is a joy to watch at work. When the lights dim and she takes the microphone, I feel totally at ease knowing that everything will be safe in her hands.…
Read More

Nancy Clark

Thank you so much for the edit. It was actually perfect. There were places where I knew the words were not quite right but I somehow couldn’t find a way to fix it and it’s exactly where you edited so I’m chuffed about that.
Read More


Marnie interviewed me about my memoir Have You Been Good? for Whit Lit in 2015. Before we met at the festival, we had a long telephone conversation and I was struck at how quickly she understood my book. Her intelligence, warmth and sensitivity made the interview on the day feel more like a conversation with…
Read More

Vanessa Nicolson

(My life) was a living nightmare. Thanks for listening to it and helping me come to terms with it and enabling me to write this story.
Read More


Thank you for interviewing me for my event at the London Fashion and Textile Museum in November, 2018. You made me feel so relaxed and I appreciate your unerring and priceless support. You made the talk possible for me and I’m incredibly grateful. Liz Wilson, owner of Eclectica Vintage
Read More

Liz Wilson

A very good service. As well as helping us write our memoirs about our adventures as wartime entertainers, Marnie arranged for us to be interviewed on BBC Radio 4, and organised a wonderful book launch for us at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley.
Read More

Mollie and Peggie

I attended the Red Door Memoir Writing Weekend because my daughter was one of the organisers and I wanted to support her and the Red Door publishing house. I was a little interested in memoir writing but now… I’m passionate about it.
Read More

Alastair Burtt

Thank you Marnie for sharing your insightful and inspirational creativeness with me – well, and all of us. I loved the weekend and have come away full of excitement to write write write. Actually perhaps it’s more to organise organise organise! Oh well somehow I am determined to get my ‘stuff’ together. Thank you again.…
Read More

Penny Wadsworth

Absolutely loved every minute of this amazing memoir writing retreat, and the time spent with such lovely people, sharing their deeply touching life experiences. Special thanks to you Marnie for all your encouragement, support and know how. Marnie helped me with my first book and now I am going to write the sequel myself. Feeling…
Read More

Sally Woodmansee

I found the memoir retreat very inspiring. I was touched by Marnie’s professionalism as well as finesse in her comments. A truly enlightening weekend. Thank you so much for all the encouragement. Mona Radwan
Read More

Mona Radwan

Marnie is a truly special person with a wonderful gift. She is sincere and compassionate. I loved working with her. My book was rather complicated.
Read More

Suzannah Ridgway

Marnie helped my father to edit his memoir Once A Sapper Always A Sapper. He really enjoyed working with her and looked forward to her visits.
Read More


This book that was written with Marnie, has totally opened the door and changed my whole outlook on life.
Read More


Marnie is a delightful lady and immediately made my Dad feel relaxed and start to chat about his life and wartime experiences.
Read More


I’d like to say how much I enjoyed reading my aunt’s memoirs that Marnie collated and wrote.
Read More


I’d just like to say a huge thank you for the dedication and passion you gave while ghostwriting with me.
Read More

Sally Woodmansee

I am amazed at what you’ve done. I’m excited. I think my memoir will be wonderful.
Read More


This is something I have been waiting to do for a long time, but when I lost my sight I thought that was it. And then I found Your Memoir.
Read More


All the books we ordered have sold and people are asking for further copies. People have been so interested! We’re really happy with everything Marnie did.
Read More


Marnie has the superb ability to write as if she is inside your head – and your heart. Marnie gave me new hope when I was struggling to write my own book.
Read More


I came to Marnie for editing and printing of my life story. I could never have hoped to do the excellent job that Marnie did.
Read More


Marnie ghosted our memoir of motorbiking around Europe for charity. The whole experience was very relaxed. Marnie was very friendly and accomodating yet professional.
Read More

Jane and Reg

Home From War is a very moving and touching story of love triumphing over all that life dealt this young soldier. A very captivating read, could not put it down. Would recommend this book.
Read More


Home From War is a truly inspirational and moving account of how love can conquer even the hardest things.
Read More


I received your book. It is absolutely fabulous. I really enjoyed reading the letters from my grandfather to you.
Read More