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· Getting Started ·
First, I decided to write about my career in law enforcement.
In the beginning of my process, I thought about making it a “How to” manual for becoming a cop. I’d tell about my wife spotting the job opening in our local newspaper’s want ads; I’d inform the reader about the application and interview phase, me getting hired, and going to the police academy. Then I’d explore the multitude of types of cases a police officer investigates, from writing traffic tickets to investigating homicides.
Ultimately, Cop in the Classroom: Lessons I’ve Learned, Tales I’ve Told, does include the above topics, but it’s largely organized in question format by inquires made of me from children during my twenty-two year assignment as a school resource officer.
My multitude of memoir topics were easily organized by the daily questions I received. Here are a few chapter titles: “Is your gun loaded?”; “Can I try on your handcuffs?”; “Have you ever arrested a drunk driver?”
There were other questions ranging from the darkest (“Did you ever watch anyone die before?”) to the lighthearted (“What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you on duty?”). These questions led me to share about one PTSD-caliber fatality wreck, and the day a vicious dog jumped into my patrol car while I was outside on a traffic stop. (But it wasn’t all that funny to me at the time.)
After repeatedly responding to these questions, I soon realized that “all I needed to do,” was write down the questions followed by my answers. In this way I began building my book, chapter by chapter. Much later, I organized the chapters into sections, including questions I asked the kids.
The title of each chapter states a topic, followed by the question. Here’s an example: “Be Careful What You Wish For–‘Have You Ever Arrested a Drunk Driver?’ ” In this chapter, I share many stories about drunk driving arrests, and how as a rookie I was wishing really hard that I’d find my first drunk driver when one nearly hit my patrol car–head on.
I also included a related quotation after each chapter title. In a chapter on ethics, called “Ethical Encounters–‘Did You Know Any Police Officers When You Were Our Age?’ ” I added this famous quotation by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
If you’re considering writing a memoir, then I’d suggest you choose one memory or event in your life and begin the process of remembering and writing. It’s fascinating (and yes, sometimes disturbing) recalling the details of our past.
No doubt, you’ll have the opportunity to share about your dreams and goals, mistakes and challenges, and how the reader can be entertained while learning life lessons from your amazing experiences.
I didn’t get hung up on how to organize my many chapters until I had a fair quantity, and at that point the chapters mostly organized themselves. “I’m here,” said one, “and I’m over here,” said another. Other chapters never made the final cut.
Why not begin writing your memoir? There are probably favorite stories you’d like to tell. Why not give others an opportunity to learn from you?
If you don’t know where to begin, dig out a photo album, journal, or diary. Interview friends and family to help your recall. (I can go down memory lane by simply examining my tee-shirts!)
Your story can begin this way: “I remember when . . .”
If you have questions about writing your memoir or ideas you’d like to share, complete the “contact the author” form on my website.
Until next time, happy reading and writing!